We got into the bees today, hoping to find convincing evidence of a queen in the second hive. We saw eggs, we saw larvae. We launched an all-out search for the actual queen. And low and behold, we found her. And she was HUGE!
This time, there were three of us crammed into the half bath (you need a confined space for marking in case the queen escapes the catcher and flies off!) Lisa's job was to catch the worker bees that got caught up in the queen catcher. Then I somehow managed to hold her enough for Donna Rae to clip her wings. Then we put her in the new plunger to mark her... in red... since we now know what the official bee color of the year is! It was a much easier, calmer experience than the last comedy of errors we had trying to mark and clip!
If you are wondering why we mark and clip the queen... well, we mark her so she's easier to find. When you've got 50,000 bees in a hive it's almost impossible to find her. And the last thing you want to do is accidentally squish her. The reason I was so adamant about finding the queen is that right now, the hive is relatively small so it was never going to be easier for us. Now was the time.
As far as clipping goes, it means that when she tries to swarm, she won't be able to fly and the bees will simply congregate at the front of the hive instead of taking off. So we'll then be able to catch them and start a new hive with them. You can't STOP them from swarming, but you can keep them in your apiary instead of losing them... or you can start a NUC to help supply new beekeepers with bees...
Now that we know all is well in our hives, we can pretty much stay out of them for another two weeks, at which point we'll want to check on the NUC we started last week to see if a queen has emerged. We opened it up today and there were a lot of bees, but we didn't take any of the frames out because we didn't want to accidentally squish the queen cells.
Listen! Do you hear that? It's me, exhaling a huge sigh of relief! That second hive of ours has been nothing but drama for several months, and it's nice to know everyone is queen-right... and all 3 of our queens are marked and clipped. That's never happened before!