Monday, April 26, 2010

The Queen is Alive, Long Live the Queen!

All week I have been reading up on emergency supersedure in the hive, but you can see that all is right in B2 today. After opening the hive, I was too busy looking for the supersedure cell from last week that I missed Queen Bingo on the first pass. My expert photographer noticed that she didn't have her “retinue” of workers around her which is something I usually look for, she was also busy darting about.

The blue making tell the age of the queen. Blue is recognized as the standard for years that end in 5 or 0. Yes, a healthy productive queen can live up to 5 years in the best conditions.

Now that the Queen drama is over, let me walk you through the hive check

Smoking the entrance, smoke calms the bees because it disrupts communication, and sends them into a feeding frenzy. They may take in as much as 3 days worth of food during this time, just in case they need to abandon the hive for a new home if a real emergency is happening.

Lifting out the frame for inspection. There was a noticeable difference in the temperament of the bees this week. A sign that the colony is "queen right".

Capped brood and some larva. I really didn't expect to see much this week. I was taken back when I saw this much, because when I opened the hive I was just checking in to make sure the supersedure cell from last week was still ok. I was concentrating on what would have caused this much brood, before I found out the queen was just fine. Based on the number of eggs she produced in the last week I think she is doing just fine.

An example for illustration of queen cell placement and the signal it gives a beekeeper. Both examples are only hypothetical neither situation is currently happening in the hive.

On the top, the large cell would be where a supersedure cell would be in the middle of the frame. This signals to the beekeeper that there is a problem with the queen and the hive is doing something about it.

On the bottom, shows where a swarm cell would be. This signals that the hive is over crowded and that 1/2 or more of the hive is getting ready to leave for a new home. In both cases if a keeper is mostly interested in honey production this would be a sign that the yield will be greatly diminished this year.

I borrowed some frames from “Club Fergie” as I mentioned in another post. The picture on the top shows how dark the comb has become in a years time. Every time a new cycle of bees hatch, the cells get polished with propolis which causes the darkening. The picture on the bottom shows the band of pollen that is usually stored above the new brood on a frame. The larva are fed a mixture of pollen and nectar called "bee bread" from days 3-9 before they are capped for the remaining 12 days.

This big ugly cluster of capped brood are drone cells. A drone is larger than a worker, this is the reason why they have larger cells that are prominent next to worker cells.

At the center of the picture is what a drone in comparison to a worker looks like. A couple of things to remember about drones. They are much noisier in flight and may startle you if you see this large noisy bee flying at you, but remember a drone doesn't have a stinger so the only thing it can do is annoy you.

Because of last week, I believed the hive wasn't “queen right” when I went out today. Not knowing how their temperament would be I brought along my frame grip to assist in keeping my hand just a little further away from the bees.

Here is me playing with the frame grip. Since I was putting another super on the hive I needed to add a frame that the bees were already working to the new super in order to signal to them that it was alright for them to move upstairs.

Here is the next level going on. You can see now why I have begun to date mark the frames. You see that even with a simple hive manipulation one can quickly loose track of which frames were added when.

Finally B2 is back together, a healthy queen right colony that is getting stronger everyday under the watchful eye of the tomten, with a new level added. I will check them one more time next week, then they will be on their own for a few weeks.

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