Saturday, 19 July 2014

Goodbye -- Hello

For the past couple of days I noticed that one of my three honey bee nuc hives was queenless. There was not a trace of eggs or larva to indicate that this new queen had been viable.

This particular queen was an unmarked, slim, black little lady. Even days after being placed in her new permanent wooden hive, she had not been released from her plastic queen cage by the workers that came with her. The sugar plug keeping her in the plastic cage should have been eaten but was still intact! Did they not like her? Was she worried they would kill her? Had she not successfully mated before being caged? When I opened the 'side door' to the cage I expected her to escape and plunge down into the frames. But no-o-o-o! She flew up, up and away. I left the inner cover open for a few minutes to give her a chance to return, then closed up the hive. The next day I checked to see if she had returned. She had, but I saw her fly out again and then come back. Very strange behaviour for a supposedly mated queen. Then, she simply went missing, never to be seen again. No point in putting up her picture on utility poles. Goodbye young lady. I hardly knew you.

So, today I decided to combine the queenless nuc with another queenright one. However, because the bees seemed strangely content in the so-called queenless hive, I had another look through the brood combs. Hello! I saw a big chocolatey-brown queen! The workers seemed devoted to her and were upset when I put the little marking cage over her and marked her thorax with a dot of leaf green non-toxic paint. This new queen must have hatched from a queen cell I saw on a frame some days back. She was bigger than the caged one and a different colour. A real beauty queen!

I'll give her some privacy for at least five days (hard for me to keep my inquisitive little fingers out of the hives) before checking her progress.

These were the queen cages that came with my nucs.

Slurping water from the stone aggregate bird bath.

The fuzzy thorax indicates she is young.

Currently, their favourite forage is my globe thistles.

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