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Archive for January, 2011

Bee Drama (1 of 2)

January 17, 2011 4 comments

A lot has been going on bee-wise over the last four months. As you might recall, I had to move our robust, feisty hive to a new location in September. The colony did beautifully in the weeks following the move. Lots of pollen coming in and plenty of new brood. The only problem–and it was a big one–was that the colony was not merely strong, but aggressive. As a new-bee myself, it took my beekeeping mentor’s repeated expressions of shock and dismay to help me realize that the bees were not behaving normally. Even after I smoked the hive, the bees were neither gentle nor sweet when we tried to do an inspection; they dive-bombed our veils and were altogether unpleasant. It took the bees quite a while to settle down, too. Here you can see the aftermath of a typical hive inspection:

After we witnessed this behavior during a few different hive inspections, we decided that the queen had to be deposed. I ordered a new queen–a Carniolan, this time. When she arrived, we set her queen cage in one of the old colony’s frames, and added some frames of brood, honey, and bees to jump start a new colony. We kept her in the queen cage for 10 days to be sure her pheromones had won over the bees that would become her adopted daughters.

The transition went very smoothly. (Imagine emerging from your little cabana to learn you had 10,000 new kids.)

We set up the new colony (in a little five-frame box or “nuc,” for nucleus colony) and waited another two weeks.

When the new queen was clearly laying and the workers were obviously bringing in pollen and nectar, we transferred the five frames from the nuc box to a regular-sized pair of medium brood boxes and filled them out with more frames from the old hive. Here you can see the difference in temperament between the old and new colonies, right after a hive inspection:

Even though we were preparing to merge the old and new colonies (after “removing” the old queen), I still held out hope that the old colony would miraculously settle down and I would have two gentle hives of bees.

[Come back soon for the dramatic and unexpected conclusion.]

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