Saturday, May 10, 2008

She ain't no human being...

I continue to be lazy with my updates, so I am backdating a few posts, starting with this one. My last post noted two challenges: making sure both hives were able to successfully requeen themselves and to get a crop of honey.

Well, after a careful inspection neither of my two hives show any evidence of a queen. I don't see any queens, nor do I see any eggs or larvae. Therefore, I need to purchase a queen for each of my two hives. I called around and found two unmarked Italian queens for $20 each. I installed one in each hive, and I have my fingers crossed that the queens will be accepted by each colony. The queens come in a cage with about 5-10 attendant bees. I have read it is best to remove the attendant bees before putting the queens in the hive. I chose not to do this, because I did not want to risk losing a queen.

The cage the queen comes in has candy on one end that bees like to eat. The theory is that once the queen cage is placed in a hive, the colony will eat the candy and release the queen. By the time the candy is eaten which takes a few days, the colony will have become accustomed to the queen and she will be accepted rather than killed. Fingers crossed...

Here is a crucial swarming fact that I learned: after a swarm, it will take 55-60 days before a new bee emerges that was laid by the queen that the bees raised themselves. Given that it takes 21 days for a worker bee to emerge, that means that the post swarm queen will not lay an egg for 34-39 days! Summer bees only live for about 6 weeks, so the population of the hive will dwindle pretty significantly after a swarm. This is the primary reason that it is difficult to get a crop of surplus honey after a swarm. IMHO, this is also a good reason to purchase a queen rather than let the bees raise their own. However, this break in the brood cycle that results from letting the bees raise their own queen is a good way to kill off varroa mites since the VMs reproduce in capped brood cells.
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