In addition to serving as an on-line garden journal, this blog is also a beekeeping journal of sorts. It's good to keep records because the older I get, the less I remember. And when it comes to beekeeping, there's lots to remember.
We last got into our hives a month ago, and all was well. We were just starting to see drone cells, and were very lucky to have both hives survive the winter. 40-60% of hives were lost here in VA, and no one knows why.
A few days ago, my neighbor and co-beekeeper Lisa saw a ton of activity outside one of the hives. I suspected a swarm, as that queens' wings weren't clipped, but didn't know what we'd find. We were also going to check and see if they were storing honey and whether or not we needed to add another box of frames.
The first hive we got into had drawn out some wax in the honey super, but there wasn't much stored. We saw eggs, we saw lots of drone cells, and we even saw the queen (she is marked). The hive wasn't teeming but with all the eggs and larvae, it's just a matter of time before numbers quickly build. We did take some frames of brood/larvae/eggs and one frame of honey and put it in the Nuc box to make a new hive.
We also saw some bees being 'born'... crawling out of their capped cells. Can you find them in the abpve picture?
The second hive was going gangbusters. We had to remove some wonky wax, but they had pretty much filled the first honey super so we added another. We also saw CAPPED swarm cells and not one egg, which means only one thing... the old queen had flown the coop as suspected. We left a couple of the cells in the hive so that one of the new queens would hatch and take over. We also took a couple of them and put them in the Nuc box, so that those bees would also have a queen rather than having to rear their own. Once they are capped, it only takes a few days for the new queens to hatch. In spite of the fact that they didn't currently have a queen, the bees were very docile. I have high hopes for this Nuc, as the other queen (who was only a year old, I don't know why she swarmed) was a good layer and her girls have good, patient personalities. The queens were raised by A LOT of bees, which bodes well.
In about three weeks, we will check back into all of the hives. Why 3 weeks? That will give the new queens time to hatch. Six days after they hatch, they will go on their mating flights (and we'll hope they make it back safely.) It normally takes about 20 days to go from a capped queen cell to laying eggs. What if we get back in and there are no eggs? All is not lost. We will simply take frames of eggs from our queen-right hive and put them in the Nuc or the second hive (or both if Murphy's law prevails) and let the bees raise their own queen from those eggs. This is why it's better to start with two hives than only one. You can rob Peter to pay Paul.