Friday, May 9, 2014

Case of the Missing Queen

We opened our beehive yesterday. It was a nice warm day, over 80 degrees, so we took advantage of the weather and did a thorough inspection. The bees have been very active. We see them coming and going from the hive. I see them on early flowers around the yard and when we put an ear to the hive, it's humming with activity.

We were so glad that our bees made it through the winter.

With this much activity we expected that they might be getting ready to swarm this year. This will be their third year in that hive. Last year was our first honey harvest, as we left them be the first year. 

Zach got the smoker ready and gave a few puffs in the entrance,

lifted the roof and gave a few more puffs.

We always get an ant colony under the roof. 

We removed the top box, which didn't have much going on, which we expected because we added it late in the year last year.

The second had honey stored in the outer frames and not a whole lot going on in the middle.

There were a lot of dead bees on top of the excluder layer. We are thinking this is the result of the winter die-off, but the bees probably couldn't remove the casualties through the screen.

Frame by frame, box by box we couldn't find the queen.

Not only could we not find her, but there was little evidence of eggs being laid or brood being reared. Which was very disappointing.

So we're pretty sure she didn't make it through the winter and we now have a queenless hive.

If we had another active hive, we could take a brood frame from the other hive and introduce it to the existing hive and hopefully they would raise a queen.

But this is our only hive, so we are in search of a queen. If you know anyone in the Flint-Ann Arbor area that could sell a queen or two we'd be interested.

Here was some wayward comb building that we removed. 

We broke it open and it looked like old brood comb. The larva casing was dry and felt like paper or stiff cellophane. It's always interesting opening the hive.

We also found the remains of a mouse nest in the entrance floor of the hive. He must have holed up all winter and the bees must have kicked him out this spring.


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Rattlerjake said...

Your queen likely froze to death as did the unprotected brood. You stated the obvious when you said that there were dead bees all over the queen excluder and that the brood comb looked old and dry. For winter there is one important thing to remember - heat rises and so do the bees. By leaving the excluder on the hive with several supers the workers moved up leaving the queen and brood behind. The reason the frames in the middle had no honey was they fed on those frames during the winter. The solutions are simple - When prepping for winter move the extra supers below the brood boxes or remove them altogether. And remove the queen excluder. To find a queen this time of year, contact your local county extension office, they usually have lists of beekeepers or beekeeping orgs where you can buy bees, queens, or even a frame with eggs/brood.

Rattlerjake said...

Also, May is kind of late to be checking your bees. You can open you hive in any winter month as long as it is 55 degrees or warmer, and not windy. Just dig the snow (if there is any) away from the entrance so that the bees can enter when you close the hive up. If you had opened it a month or two earier, you could have been ready to replace the queen.

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