Two major triumphs during last Tuesday’s inspection. I can’t even decide which to be more excited about:
1. Meet our new queen of the Charlie Brown hive, Lucy (of course)!
2. I kept the smoker going the whole time – that’s throughout inspection of three hives. I’m kind of a big deal.
Okay really the new queen is more exciting (isn’t she gorgeous in the video) but um mastering the art of the smoker is really hard. I probably won’t be able to do it next time but yay.
Three weeks ago I did the first inspection of the year, and split a small nucleus hive off the bigger (green/blue) hive to help discourage swarming. I didn’t purchase a queen to give the nuc, so they are raising their own queen. Last Tuesday, I checked the nuc first and it had a nice number of bees and… eggs! That means one of the frames I gave them must have already had a queen cell in progress, and she emerged and mated successfully, OR that I have laying workers and the nuc is doomed. When a hive goes too long with no queen, some of the workers’ ovaries will develop just enough and they will start laying eggs. But, having never mated (and not having that ability), they will lay only haploid eggs which only have one chromosome and thus all turn out male. All drones = failure. Since drones do just about nothing.
The Charlie Brown hive was looking really nice with bees covering up the frames, and as I pulled out one of the middle frames I saw the queen before I even got a good hold of it. As you can see in the photo and video, she looks a lot like her mother & aunt with a caramel-colored body (“Sunkist Cordovan” I believe the apiary called the line I bought her mother from), and she’s nice and plump. Hopefully she will be a good queen. She has just started laying so I won’t know how solid of a brood pattern she lays until the larvae mature a little.
The bigger hive was busting with bees. MAQs didn’t slow them down a bit. There were even some queen cups and I tore down a single capped queen cell so there might be some swarm instinct going on. Since then, I’ve gone back and added a brood box and checkerboarded the existing frames with wax foundation ones. That should make them feel like they have more room and hopefully I can avoid a swarm this year. Swarms are heartbreaking.
I hope it warms up soon. The bigger hive has two partially-full supers on it already so if they can get to work soon we should be in the honey this year! Even the Charlie Brown hive is starting to use its super.
Oh and here is my assistant cleaning out the syrup bucket.