Monday, June 2, 2008


It seems my fears about being queenless were unfounded. I was into the hives again today after 9 days of leaving them alone and found things working well. The last time I was into the langstroth hive, I saw that they needed another hive body (if only to fill with honey) because they had drawn comb out on eight of ten frames. I hadn't seen any brood comb, nor had I seen the queen during that examination, so I was worried I was going to lose the colony. I finally got another hive body and was able to open the hive and check things out before adding the new body to the hive. I had thrown some feral brood comb into the hive in the hopes that they would raise up a new queen, but found no queen cells or new brood on those combs today. As I pulled out a couple of the middle frames, I saw them about 3/4 covered with capped worker brood. I even saw a young lady chewing her way out of her cell!!! That's really quite cool. It just means that nature is considerably smarter than I am and all of my worrying was for nothing. I added the new frame to the top and have high hopes that this colony will be strong enough to really get out there and make some honey this year!!!
The top bar hive has turned into quite a mess. Without a frame to attach the feral brood to, the heat from the sun and my own ineptitude have resulted in an M.C. Escher-esque hive, with comb running in every direction, twisted and turning, connected on the bottom, sides and top of the hive in different places. I cleaned out some of the old comb and straightened out some of the comb that could be straightened and stood up, but for the most part, I am going to have to leave these girls alone to their devices for the rest of the season. I found no queen with the colony because I cannot get several of the top bars out of the hive because of the mess of comb I have. They're still working and nursing the brood that they have from their feral colony and I didn't find any queen cells, so I am going to give them the benefit of the doubt and hope for the best. I'll reopen the hive in a week or two and try and clean out what burr comb I can, but I think I'd rather let this colony straighten itself out this summer and I'll do what I can to winterize them in the fall. If they can get strong enough and draw out comb on the top bars (which they are doing,) I should be able to get in and clean out the old, unattached comb once the queen has stopped laying for the season. In the meantime, I'll let them do their thing...
One observation I have to make, these colonies are VERY different. The bees in the first colony seem to be milder, smaller, and have more yellow on their bodies. The bees in the second colony are darker and look to be about 10-25% larger than the others. They are also a fair bit more aggressive. I am not confident enough with them right now to open the hive without my smoker and suit in place. They are a little more used to having me around so I can at least visit my garden without having them buzz me away.

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