Oh, bees.

So in fine, long-standing Summersweet tradition, my two new packages of bees are determined to auto-annihilate before summer flowers even bud up. This’ll be the …sixth?… year in a row where I get bees that just aren’t up to the simple task of staying alive.

Every year it’s a new problem. The first year, I had a drone layer. And I didn’t know what I was looking at, so I didn’t find out til too late. No new brood = colony death. Second, third, fourth years, small hive beetle – though they say that only attacks a weak colony in the first place so who knows. The fifth year a teeny cluster overwintered until about March, but were too small to build up their numbers enough to make it into Spring.

This year, I got two packages instead of just one, to play it safe. Maybe one would have problems, I figured. Maybe it wouldn’t. Well….

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Those are supercedure cells there, folks. And what’s around it, in a fully-drawn comb that should be absolutely filled with flat, neat brood comb?… a big fat nothing, that’s what. No eggs, no larvae. Looks like the queen laid maybe 15 eggs and then quit – the bees knew something was wrong and immediately made those eggs into drone and queen cells. Sigh, I thought. A non-laying queen… again?? Well surely the next box is better.

Nope. No eggs, larvae, or brood anywhere in Ceylon. After three weeks (which is approaching death sentence time for a colony with no new brood). Keep in mind a queen should be able to start laying within 1-3 days of having enough comb to lay in; so say a week or so.

Two non-laying queens. TWO. Both of them.

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I took a Darjeeling frame with a couple queen cells on it and put it into Ceylon. They both have 2-4 potential queens now. I found both dud (I really want to call them something else not as polite) queens, pinched them both (so they wouldn’t kill the new growing queens). In one day, I killed both queens in both of my colonies. It felt like yanking off my own finger, but it had to be done – if the queen is in there, the bees may faithfully follow her to their own deaths. I needed these new queens to have a fighting chance, and a queenless hive to come back to (as opposed to just going off to start a new hive somewhere else.)

The problem with these new queens is that the timing just isn’t right. Queen cells take 16 days to mature, then another 3 days for mating flights. If they start laying right away, it’ll be another 21 days before those bees hatch. And they won’t be able to go out and forage right away; they’ll stick around home for a week or two first. So I could maybe expect my first new workers about a month from now. And with only a 6 week life span, my package bees will be dead and unable to care for the new brood… or at least so underpopulated that they won’t be able to care for/cover all the new eggs and all will be for naught no matter how good a layer the new queen is.

I’m trying really hard to find an already-mated queen locally, but everywhere I’ve looked they are completely sold out. One person said they could maybe get some to me by next Sunday (today is Monday), but my own queens might have been hatched and mated by then, so why bother.

What I really need to do is beg some frames of brood off a fellow beekeeper to limp us along. But brood is really valuable this time of year, with the honey flow in full force. Cross your fingers someone will take pity on me!

 

 

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