Bee attack!

Thurs June 16th - my birthday! In my last blog (Blog June 13th), I mentioned that something was strange with Hive 4, the swarm Allan had caught for me on May 17th. It looked like they were queenless: they have not expanded beyond the first three frames they laid foundation down on when they did have a queen. The remaining frames are completely blank. So, today, when Allan swung by to return the critter cage he had borrowed to take the queens back with him from his previous visit several weeks before (see Blog entry May 18th), I asked him to take a look at what was going on in Hive 4. 

Allan agreed. He could not find the queen either, and he agreed that all the drone cells in the center of the frames and no worker cells strongly suggested they were queenless. We discussed what I could do about this. Looks like there were two options: I could either add this hive to Hive 1, which had swarmed several times and now didn't have enough workers to make enough honey, or I could buy a queen from Allan since he had started raising queens.

Then I asked if he could take a look at the honey supers on Hive 2 that the bees were filling with honey, as I had a few questions about it. I pulled out a few frames and honey began oozing all down the side of the hive, there was so much of it. But then he noticed something else: there was brood in the honey supers. In other words, they weren't just storing honey here, the queen was laying eggs here too, which is not good. "Huh! I should have used a queen excluder" I remarked. This is a flat piece of plastic that is perforated with slots. You place it flat down on top of the top hive box and then place the honey supers on that. The workers can fit through the slots, but the queen can't. This stops her from laying eggs in the honey you want to extract.

"But Adam told me not to bother with queen excluders, that's why I didn't do that" I complained.

"Hmm, well, might have been a good idea", said Allan calmly.

"So what happens now?" asked Norman, who had wandered over to watch the bee expert at work. Do we lose the honey in those frames?"

"No", said Allan, "you just wait for the brood in those cells to emerge.

In the meantime, I should get myself some queen excluders, I thought.

Tuesday June 29th.

 The grass is over my head now, on the way to the bee hives!

The grass is over my head now, on the way to the bee hives!

Armed with a queen excluder, I came out to do my bee rounds, and to add the excluder to Hive 2. The other hives were doing well. I had added a second box to one of my new hives (the ones I got June 3rd) the week before because the bees had almost filled up all the frames.

 Checking to see if they have started adding foundation to the frames in the upper box which I added last week. Today I added a pollen patty (lying on the top).

Checking to see if they have started adding foundation to the frames in the upper box which I added last week. Today I added a pollen patty (lying on the top).

 Looks like they have (white stuff is wax).

Looks like they have (white stuff is wax).

Today I added a second box to the other new hive as well.

 All hives now have two hive boxes, with the exception of the swarm hive which is not doing well since it seems to have lost its queen.

All hives now have two hive boxes, with the exception of the swarm hive which is not doing well since it seems to have lost its queen.

Then I checked the hive with the captured swarm. It still looked weird, but this time the drone cells were empty meaning they had emerged.

 Empty drone brood cells in queenless hive. A worker bee is laying eggs, but workers can only lay drone cells (males). Only queens can lay female eggs.

Empty drone brood cells in queenless hive. A worker bee is laying eggs, but workers can only lay drone cells (males). Only queens can lay female eggs.

Then I tried to see about putting a queen excluder in the hive with the honey supers. I was a little nervous about this because it required 1) that I find the queen, 2) that I somehow manage to move the queen down to the bottom boxes, and 3) that I get the queen excluder set up properly. Clearly, the thing to do is put the excluder in before putting on the honey supers instead of the other way round.

 Hive with 2 honey supers (the shorter boxes on the top)

Hive with 2 honey supers (the shorter boxes on the top)

Things did not go at all well. The top honey super was dripping with honey, and though I did remove one frame first, I made an initial mistake of not pushing the other frames into the available space before pulling them out. So I found I was grinding bees up against the next frame because they had built up a few thick ridges that jutted out towards the neighboring frames. I saw a few bees that had been squished, dripping in honey and rolling back down the frame, dead. Sigh. That was dumb.

I looked at frame after frame, and needless to say, could not find the queen. Some of the frames were very heavy, they were so full of honey! At one point, I could barely keep a hold of the frame with my gloved fingers at one end, and it slipped back into the hive box suddenly, squashing a bunch of bees completely flat. Instead of stopping and giving up for the time being, I kept trying it again and kept doing it again and again.

Now the bees were mad! They began swarming up my left arm. Normally I don't pay any attention to that, but this time I suddenly started to feel pain, and looking down, I noticed that the sleeve of my glove was not pulled up to my elbow, and several bees were succeeding in stinging me through my sweatshirt on my forearm, and there was nothing I could do about it since I was holding the frame. I had to wait until I had put everything back (carefully) before I could get them off! It really hurt too. I had never been stung like that before. Anyway, I had had enough! I couldn't find that queen, but that was it. I would have to have some help, because it was not working doing it this way.

 This is how you want the cells with honey in the honey supers to look (on the right) - "capped" - you want to see the white wrinkly stuff before you remove the frame to extract the honey. When it has been capped by the bees and looks like that, it is ready.

This is how you want the cells with honey in the honey supers to look (on the right) - "capped" - you want to see the white wrinkly stuff before you remove the frame to extract the honey. When it has been capped by the bees and looks like that, it is ready.

 This is not what you want to see - brood cells in the honey super.

This is not what you want to see - brood cells in the honey super.

 Maybe about 5 bee stings...

Maybe about 5 bee stings...

So now I will have to go back at some point and try getting the queen excluder set up and NOT get stung this time. What a hassle!

Monday July 4th. My arm swelled up more until about Friday when I took some Benedryl. Not fun.