Thursday, June 5, 2014

Brushy Mountain's Question of the Month: June

Question of the Month

I went out to my hive and noticed a good portion of my bees were gone!!!I saw swarm cells last time I checked, but did not think they would swarm this late into the year. Now, I cannot find a queen anywhere to purchase!
What am I supposed to do with the remaining bees?

Swarming is always an issue a beekeeper must deal with.
  • Be alert and add the needed supers when your bees require them (waiting too can allow your bees to become overcrowded).
  • Be proactive and have a Cardboard NUC handy... just in case!
  • If swarming does occur, there will be a daughter queen remaining with the bees that did not swarm. She will take over as queen of the hive.
The daughter queen will hatch a virgin and must go on a mating flight to become fertile. A mating flight will span the course of 2 – 3 days in which the queen will mate with 10 – 15 drones. If all goes well she will return to the hive and begin laying, in which you will begin to see eggs 1 -2 weeks after your bees swarmed.

queen bee

As many of us have experienced, things never go well and we must prepare for all things to go wrong. 
Once your virgin queen goes on her mating flight, she may not return.

  • A hungry bird, the windshield on a car and many other threats stand in her way.
  • If the weather is not excellent, she may not be properly mated when she returns to the hive.
First, beekeepers must check and make sure there are eggs to ensure there is a queen in the hive; Second, you must check the brood pattern to see if she is properly mated. A poorly mated queen may have a spotty brood pattern with multiple empty cells rather than solid with few empty cells or she may be laying drone eggs. If everything appears to be ok, then you know your hive is queen right!

2 alternatives to make sure you come out with a queen right hive:

  • If you find that you have a second hive that shows swarming tendencies, you can split that colony and use the queen cells to raise out a queen in the previously swarmed colony (in the case that the swarmed hive remains queenless after 1 – 2 weeks). This will alleviate swarming from your other hive and will give the swarmed colony a second chance at raising out a queen.
  • The hive that has, or is about to swarm will develop multiple queen cells. Create aNUC from a separate hive and introduce a frame, with queen cells, from the swarmed hive into the NUC. This will double your chances of having a properly mated queen. If the Swarmed hive or the NUC produces a properly laying queen and the other does not, combine the hives with a NUC introduction board. If both show signs of a queen right colony, you now have a NUC to overwinter with. Great for running a 2 & 1/2 Hives. Larry Conner discusses the advantage of 2 & 1/2 hives in this webinar:

In the end, if you find eggs and the brood pattern looks good, you have a queen right hive.

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