Here is what we chose to do:
Wednesday 14th Two new queens arrived from Big Island Queens in Hawaii. Both were alive, with all attendants alive but looking sluggish. They were in a 3-hole cage, so we put a drop of water and a drop of honey on the mesh of the cage. Within a couple of hours, there was a lot more activity, and amazing sounds of bees chomping the candy in the cage.
We went out to the hives and in the calm hive, we found the queen within 15 minutes. We put the frame she was on into a nucleus box, with 2 frames of food, 2 of capped brood and one with a mixture of food and capped brood. We wanted to keep her alive until we knew that the new queen had been accepted. We left the calm hive queenless overnight, and moved the nucleus off-site.
We opened the aggressive hive, and despite a one hour search of the double brood boxes, we could not find the queen. We closed the hive again, and resolved to search again the next day.
Thursday 15th. We put the queen cage into the calm hive close to some emerging worker brood, observing the colony’s behaviour towards her for a few minutes. Nurse bees were soon clustering around the mesh, and seemed to want to feed the new queen. There was no stinging, biting or balling of the cage, so we closed the hive.
We went through the aggressive hive two more times, inspecting each frame twice. No queen. Capped and uncapped brood, eggs and a couple of empty “play” queen cups were seen, but not queen cells.
The caged queen and her attendants got another drop of honey and a drop of water. Both were eagerly consumed by the attendants.
Friday 16th. Another unsuccessful search for the queen in the aggressive hive. We now decided to make life easier for ourselves by breaking the hive down into 2 nuclei of 4 frames and a single deep 8 frame brood box. No queen cells were seen on any frame. Eggs and uncapped brood present. We put the best nucleus onto our roof deck, about 70 feet away from the first hive. The other nucleus we put on top of a flat roofed hive, with the entrance rotated at 90 degrees to the parent colony entrance - a sort of Snelgrove board concept, but with no mesh between the nucleus and the hive below.
About 5 hours after creating the roof deck nucleus, a nice queenless roar was detected, so the remaining queen cage was introduced, rubber banded to an empty frame between two frames of emerging brood.
The bees seemed to welcome her nicely, so we closed up the nucleus.
To appease our apiphobic (bee-fearing) neighbours, we have agreed not to do any beekeeping on weekends or public holidays. However, now (Friday) our colonies were in a position to wait for a few days, and our shipped queens were nicely accommodated.
Monday 19th. David is busy with work until dark, and I have agreed not to go through the aggressive hive solo. Plus my face and eye were still very swollen from a sting on the previous Friday.
Tuesday 20th. Roof deck nucleus has released the queen. She was seen calmly walking around on the frames. Empty cage and frame removed and the remaining 4 frames were pushed together to help keep the brood warm.
Calm hive also released their queen, and lots of eggs were spotted. Did not see the queen, but we didn’t want to go through the hive too extensively, as it was only 5 days since she was introduced.
Aggressive nucleus was inspected next. Wow! Dozens of loaded queen cells, some capped, some uncapped, but all stuffed with royal jelly and larvae. Aggressive hive inspected too. Same findings - tons of queen cells. No eggs seen in either colony. Some 3 day old larvae and lots of uncapped brood seen.
I don’t want to string this out too long, but before I give you the final choices we made, I have some questions for people to think about. It might be good if we suggest that we let beekeepers with less than 3 years’ experience have a go at these first. There will be lots of good ways to handle the situation, the idea is just to give people practice in thinking about the problem.
- When is the most likely date that the queen died?
- When do worry about the hive developing laying workers.
- What do we do with the roof deck nucleus on Tuesday 20th?
- What do we do with the queen cells and why do what you suggest?
- What do we do with the aggressive nucleus and single brood hive on Tuesday, if anything?
- When do we inspect again (it is going to rain on Wednesday and Thursday)?
Thanks for joining this conversation. Hopefully it is useful to some people, or a least a bit of beekeeping fun.