We went through all 3 hives thoroughly today. We took out all the extra frames we put in two weeks ago that didn’t show evidence of comb being drawn. There’s no need for extra space to defend if they’re not going to use the frames just yet. We created a new race of albino bees in all three hives (powdered sugar shake). It didn’t make them too angry, but they were clearly displeased with the idea of all that cleanup to be done. As usual, we failed to find the queens in #1 and #3, but we did see young brood in both, and eggs in one Eventually, I hope we’ll get better at identifying queens and eggs.
Mary – Queen of Bees is still imprisoned in the tower in #2 wondering what she did to offend. Little does she know that the axe awaits her. This colony has been our problem children all along. After the (presumed) swarm in May while we were gone, they successfully raised a new queen which we saw the following week, but she apparently never made it back from one of her mating flights, and the colony developed laying worker syndrome. Allen Johnson brought us a laying queen whom they accepted, and who has been laying well ever since, breaking the laying worker syndrome against all my expectations. But the hive still has a strong propensity to raise drones, and now has a very strong infestation of mites. They were even beginning to show some DWV. So we decided to enforce a brood break by capturing the queen in a cage frame we built. We’ve also decided that much as we love her, she just has to go in favor of more mite-resistant stock. In the meantime, we’re exploiting her by letting her pheromones waft through the hive even though she has nowhere to lay. We’re hoping that way the workers will focus on working, and won’t try to go back to laying. Of course, they do know something is seriously wrong, and have built about 20 or more supersession cells with new queen larvae inside during the week Mary has been in prison. We did scrape a bunch of burr comb and drone brood comb from #2 again today, and saw one mite on it with just a casual glance. We’re not going to do a detailed dissection of the capped drone brood this time. It’s very time consuming, and we know the mites are there in large numbers. We also took off all of the queen cells we could find as we were expecting to since Mary is trapped in her cage unable to lay. We need to do the same for three more weeks, then re-queen. The good news is that this colony is very strong, putting up a lot of stores, and doesn’t show any more sign of the secondary effects of strong mite infestation like DWV and inability to defend against robbing and other vermin.
I’m still a little worried about #3. Their pattern is good, but they’re still a little small. We were hoping to take an egg frame from this hive to re-queen #2 in a few weeks, because we know their breeding, and are confident of their mite resistance. But they’re going to need that population to defend their stores over the winter. As it is, I’m pretty sure we’re going to need to supplement them this winter (possibly earlier) with honey frames stolen from #1. They’re putting up some stores, but not as much as we hoped. Maybe they’ll blossom out during the autumn flow before the cold weather sets in. We can but hope.
The #1 hive is our strongest by far. They started out this April as a nuc, overcame a serious infestation of SHB larvae early on – largely thanks (I believe) to Dr. Leo’s horizontal screen bottom design with oil trap pans, swarmed (we think) in May while we were in California for a week, successfully re-queened from their own newly-raised queen bred to local drones, have now drawn out over 2/3 of the horizontal hive (about 22 frames, I think), and are putting up honey and pollen like crazy. I’m thinking maybe this would be a good choice to steal an egg frame from when it comes time to re-queen #2. We’ll sugar shake them along with the others for the next few weeks, but I’m confident that they’ll overwinter okay.