July 3, 2011

Splitsville for Bee City

Yesterday we decided to check up on our hive and if Queen Sally had taken control of the situation. Sadly, it seemed like Queen Sally was not doing her job. There were no eggs or larva and the workers had started filling the brood box with honey. I suppose they were doing this because, "screw-it the queen isn't making babies and the comb should be used for something." <-- bee thinking.
Since Sally was nowhere to be seen, we figured she was dead and went out and bought a new queen. Our pal Darrell came over for a visit and took part in the re-queening. This is a process where you take a queen (in her little screen box) and place her in the hive. Hopefully the bees are excited to see her and over a day or two eat their way into the box, thereby freeing her.

When we put the queen in our hive we were not sure what we were seeing. It was hard to tell the difference between happy bees swarming a queen to welcome her and angry bees swarming a queen to kill her. We thought it could be either case and left the queen in to see what happened over time with the assumption that the workers would soon warm up to her.
When we checked back later in the day things seemed tense. The workers had NOT warmed up to the new queen, but were mobbing her and trying to sting the cage. This kind of behavior suggests that Sally was still around. We took the new queen out of the hive and pondered what to do next.
The solution we came to was to split the hive. We would set up a new hive on the other side of the yard. The new queen (who we've named Bertha) would be their leader. We took several frames from our old hive and placed them in the new purple hive (workers included). We scrutinized each frame to make sure we did not accidentally transport Sally. We let the new colony sit overnight before we introduced Bertha. When we placed Bertha in the hive the workers behaved very differently. They mobbed the box, but they also all fanned in unison, which we hadn't seen before. This kind of behavior is often seen when the hive is suddenly queenless. The workers fan to spread any lingering queen pheromones in a desperate attempt to locate her. It was still kind of difficult to tell if they were happy or angry though. Bee kisses are pretty hard to distinguish from bee bites.
When we checked back later in the day, the hive was mellow and it looked like the workers accepted the queen. We have high hopes for the purple hive under queen Bertha's reign. The green hive with Sally (or whoever) is still a worry, but at least we think we've successfully hedged our bets against a total loss.

1 comment:

Elizabeth Hobson said...

Bee drama! Keep the updates coming. We're rooting for Queen Bertha in her purple domain (purple is Aaron and Levin's 2nd favorite color)