Queenless and back – Fall update

I have been incredibly bee-hind in updating you on the bees for a variety of reasons. First of all I went to EAS conference in Burlington , VT in mid August and got some great videos I wanted to share. Unfortunately the computer died for a while which combined with the move has left that on the back burner. If I can recover them I’ll put them up.

After the move we went through a series of problems. While two of the hives made it through just fine, one (the first year colony that had been strongest) ended up queen-less. After a few attempts for them to create their own queen we kept seeing no eggs. Luckily our other two colonies were so strong they wanted to swarm, so we were able to add a few capped swarm cells as well  as brood and workers to bolster the weak hive. Ultimately we finally saw a queen in that hive in early September. With a queen and enough warm weather to mate, I thought we were home free, but sadly that was not the case. Rob looked and saw no eggs. I suspected we had just missed them and so gave it another look a week later, but once again, no eggs or brood. Here some good graces from a fellow beekeeper stepped in. The Cumberland county beekeeper mailing list had someone with an extra queen and we sure needed one! I picked up the queen in new gloucter on a rainy fall afternoon. The new queen spent the night on top of fine hive in a jar to let them get used to her smell, then we put her in the next day. In the middle of. Bunch of rainy days, I wass lucky to find a few hour long hole in which I could open the hive- I found the old queen on the first frame I pulled – so at least a few bits of good luck.  Finally during the first week of October that hive has brood and eggs and a queen. They had plenty of honey going into this whole afaire, so I expect them to pull through just fine.

For the other two hives, we have gone through typical fall housekeeping matters.  They were both treated with two rounds of Thymol (ApiGuard) to deal with the mite.  The weak/queen-less hive did not get that, both because we didn’t want to stress them any more and the length of time they were queenless would have broken the brood cycle for the mites (mites grow with the bees, so no new bees = no new mites!) In addition we have treated the two stronger hives with heavy syrup with fumigillian. Originally I had hoped to not need to add more medication to the hives, but after the drama of loosing a queen I just wanted everyone to be as strong as possible going into the  winter.  It’s now the end of October, the mite treatment is done (good thing because the days are now too cold for it!), 2 of the three are through medicated syrup, so the last thing left is to wrap the hives for winter. They will all get a insulating top cover to absorb moisture as well a some tyvek house-wrap in stylish black to absorb heat and cut the wind.  They are still flying  – in fact I just saw some pollen going into one of the hives (maybe the mums on the neighbor’s porch??).

It’s been a whirlwind Fall for us and the bees, but if there is one thing I have learned through all this it is the importance of keeping records. It is so easy to forget whether you put that mite stuff on last week or the week before. To help with that I have started a bee log/calender and hope to keep up my blog entries so I don’t forget what great stuff I’ve done.