Monday. I talked to Adam Fuller this morning. He listened while I launched into an excited rant about "100 queen cells! Twenty to a frame!" While I was telling him all this and asking what would be the best next step, I noticed that he was unusually silent. He is not usually silent. Usually I have a hard time getting myself heard. But then he was off, "well, so what you need to do is..." and launched into how I can just take 2-3 frames with brood from each hive and put them in a new hive box, and put in one frame with a queen cell, give them some sugar syrup, and "you should have some beautiful hives with that!" He made it sound so simple! "But you have to be careful not to accidentally move the queen into the new hive, though, because then you have a problem" he added. "And then you need to carve out the remaining queen cells from the two original hives." "Oh..kay..." I gulped, "I .... guess that's what I'll do", I thought, my legs shaking, "that's fine....I can do it....". I have to admit that I have not once been able to find the queens in those hives ever since they first arrived in the queen cages last June. I know they are there, since they are laying eggs.
It was going to be tricky finding a time to do this. By the time he called, I had one hour before I had to pick up Desta from school to take her to the doctor for her appointment, and then take her back to school, and then go back to the school and pick the two girls up when school was over. I decided to do it after that. The next day, Tues, it was supposed to rain all day, so I couldn't do it then. And I feared that the longer I delayed doing what I needed to do, the more likely it was that they would swarm and I would miss my opportunity. On the other hand, they had their gymnastics class in less than 2 hours, and it looked like a 4 hour job...
So once the girls were home, I grabbed my gear and headed down to the bees, while they played with their stuffed animals on their playscape. I had shaky knees and felt sick to my stomach. I would far rather trade places with them. (I mean, join them. Don't want them with the bees!) Somehow I was supposed to swap all these frames around and find the queens and not make any stupid mistakes, all by my self with no help.
I started on the hive that had last been messed with two days previously. As soon as I opened it up ("Oh, not her again" I'm sure they were thinking) I knew it was hopeless finding that queen. I carefully lifted each frame out and examined them closely. I knew what I was supposed to be looking for: a bee that is almost 2 times as long as a worker bee, but not as stocky as a drone (male), and eyes are smaller than a drone's. And all the bees around her are fussing over her. Well, all I saw were thousands and thousands of bees. Most were small with small eyes (workers), and a few were large, but they were stocky and had huge eyes, so they were drones. No one seemed to be fussing over anyone large and slim.
So then I thought maybe I will move three frames to the new hive box that have lots of brood and honey and queen cells, and just make sure those ones don't have the queen on them. After doing that (though, for all I knew, they could have the queen!), I then tried to tackle the task of destroying queen cells. I did NOT want to start digging out bee larvae and it took some persuading. Finally I took the plunge and started gouging out what I thought were queen cells. It was quite disgusting! Lot's of white gooey stuff oozed out and I made quite a mess. I am not generally the type of person who likes to kill creatures, but prefer nature be left to take care of itself. But if I didn't want them to swarm....
After about the 4th frame, I gave up. It was too much, and I couldn't even be sure I was getting all of them because the bees were so thickly covering the surface I could not see. I had to keep smoking them to get them to move. Once again, they got more and more irritable and many started stinging my gloves. This made others react to me more aggressively too and more started trying to attack me. One or more kept diving at my face. However, being safely protected behind a veil and thick leather bee gloves, they did not manage to sting me. But it was still making things difficult. In the end I just couldn't take any more of this. I decided I really didn't know what I was doing and I should just put everything back and go home. So I did, having failed to follow Adam's advice. At times like this, I wonder why I decided to get involved with bees! What was I thinking?
While all this drama was going on at the bee hives, Norman kindly offered to take the girls to their gymnastics class (it's his night to cook, so I usually take them), and by the time I had finished and gone back to the house, they were back already!
It's a good thing I did decide to abandon separating out some frames that day. At some point I started to wonder if I was identifying "queen cells" correctly. Could it be that some of the cells I was seeing - the ones that project outwards - were not actually queen cells, but drone cells? What seemed to support this idea was how many there were, and remembering Adam Fuller's silence when I said "hundreds of queen cells!" Maybe I should remember that he had said there are usually one or two in his talk the other day. Maybe "hundreds" is not likely. When I got back to the house, I looked in my bee books, and sure enough, drone brood cells project out from the frame while queen cells are larger and hang down. Ahhhh!!!! They were drone cells!!! And there I was digging them out of the frames! I could have just left them alone! Groan! I can't believe I made my self dig those out when I didn't even need to! Argh! What happened? Was it because Adam's lecture on queen cells put "queen cells" on my brain, making me think that was what was going on? Was all this drama for naught? Maybe there were no queen cells at all! That would be funny. I'll have to look at the frames all over again, one by one again (!!!) and check. I am pretty sure I did see some large ones that hung down. Would be funny if I couldn't find any next time I look! I will let you know on Wednesday! At least I know what queen cells look like now. Problem is, I still don't know if I can find the queen.