Well, it happened…in true diva form, Queen Beeyonce quit the band. I’ve had a suspicion for a while that she was on the outs but until we came back from our vacation, I didn’t have firm proof. I was pretty bummed, though there really is nothing we could have done and it wouldn’t have mattered that we were gone on our trip.
We could tell that she was gone because of the type of brood that was in the combs. Instead of a nice flat cap on the cells, there were hilly or bullet-shaped brood caps – meaning that they were all male bees inside. The placement of the eggs was also unorganized and spotty. When a hive is left without a queen for long enough, the workers will begin to lay their own eggs. The problem with this is – they aren’t fertilized eggs- which results in only male bees. Only the queen can lay fertilized eggs. I didn’t take pictures of my hive but here’s an example so you can see what I mean.
Image source: BeeInformed.org
Luckily, I’ve stayed in contact with Marge, my wonderful bee instructor, from the course I had taken. She came out to our hive and confirmed our suspicions that our queen was gone. Timing was perfect though as she had just split one of her own hives that was becoming overpopulated.
Because bees can be territorial, we wouldn’t be able to just add a new queen and more workers to my existing hive. We would have to remove my bees completely from the site. Marge came back a few days later and we traded bees. She took our drones (male bees) and what workers we had left (female bees) and dispersed them amongst her many hives. I then took her new bees (newbies?) and placed them in my hive. We made sure to spot the queen before we closed up the hive.
I waited a week to make sure the new bees were acclimated to their new home before going in to check on them. My trusty beekeeping assistant (my dad) was on hand to help take photos and to help spot our new queen. When we opened up the hive, I was very happy to see some burr comb that the bees had built out from the sugar water feeder I had placed in there. This just means that they have been busy at work.
We took off the cover and inspected it to make sure the queen wasn’t hanging out there.
My old hive’s numbers were really dropping since no new workers were being born, so it was great to see so many new bees once we had the cover off.
Since the flowers are really blooming now, they’ve been busy at work collecting nectar and pollen. The white capped cells are honey storage cells.
This is what a queen-laid brood frame should look like. Uniform and smooth for the most part with some drone caps sprinkled in. You can also see some more burr comb at the top of the frame.
It was great to see so much progress, but I’ll admit I was getting nervous that we hadn’t seen the queen. But after inspecting one of the last frames, we finally spotted her!
Looks like our new queen and bees have really taken a liking to their new home (woohoo!) We’re very excited to continue to watch their progress throughout the summer.
But the bigger question is… what should we name our new queen bee? I was thinking about naming her after another diva like Tina Turner or Diana Ross, or even Cleopatra… but then what if she has a huge ego like Beeyonce and ups and leaves the band again?
I’m up for suggestions though – let me know what you think in the comments below!