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Two Queens Released and Rob Out!

Things seemed to be turning positive with our first (and only) rainfall for June coming last night and providing a whopping 7 tenths of an inch in eastern Henrico! I have no idea if it was just coincidence or not, but all of the hives were incredibly gentle this morning and seemingly glad to leave the desert conditions.

I have a bunch of things going on in the apiary, but there were two critical tasks that needed to be accomplished today. On Saturday, I released two new queens into two new hives! I have never ‘released‘ a queen into a hive before. All of my hives have raised their own queens (I had no marked queens in my bee yard, up until this point.) I was a bit nervous, but I was resigned to the real possibility that both would fail. It would be a learning experience and I would move on from there.

So, I started with the Bob hive. A bee had seemingly flown up out of the hive and fed the queen before I even put the cage into the hive. I was somewhat hopeful here. I opened up the hive and quickly (but calmly) pulled the frame with the attached queen cage. Again, the bees had completely covered the wire that covered the side open to the air. I had been somewhat concerned with the heat that the queen would die if they didn’t give her water, but I could see her walking about, directly on the wire, opposite to the bees. Clearly, they were not biting her, or you’d think she would be at the other side of the cage. So, I pulled the plug (opposite the candy end, as they had not done a bit of damage to the candy) and held the cage to the top of a frame for her to walk out. Two minutes later, and I became a bit concerned that my new queen was a bit mentally challenged. She clamored about, but never exited the cage.

Upon closer inspection, I could see a staple holing the wire caging onto the wooden container, so I used my pliers and pulled it out, pulling out the wiring. She was now open to the air. I held the open in next to a frame and down she went, into the hive! Of course, I had pictures in my mind of a bunch of bees jumping her, so I put the caging aside and began to look for her. I also wanted to destroy any queen cells. I found her in shortly thereafter (actually, it took a bit as she must have shot over to another frame real quickly.) Bees were all about her, feeding her and then I actually saw her seemingly lay an egg! I lost the cell in the masses, but I am about 90% sure she put an egg in there. Regardless, things looked good. I removed the rest of the frames and ended up finding 3 queen cells, all of which I destroyed. I’ll check back again tomorrow, just to be sure that no queen cells exist. You can’t be too careful with this.

As to the Apache Hive, I was a bit more concerned about them, mainly because they seemed to ‘ball’ the cage when I introduced it. But, I found them in the exact same position as before (it clearly was not balling, but feeding) and released her in the same manner as the Bob Hive. As before, things went smoothly and I found her being groomed or fed. But, here is where things went wrong…

To begin with, I forgot to look for queen cells. This is not a big deal, as none can hatch before I check them tomorrow, but it now reduces my ‘queen cell check’ to one inspection, instead of two. More importantly, I did not get the top of the hive down securely, but had no idea of this fact when I left.

When I returned home from work, there were probably 10,000 bees around the Apache Hive. They were literally pouring out of the hive and a small swarm worth of bees were hanging off of the front. No other hives were experiencing this, plus it had one of my newer (and better constructed) robber screens. This couldn’t be robbing! Were my bees leaving? Had someone happened within the hive that made them leave.

Well, I went to open the top and that’s when I realized that the top was not put on securely. Bees were scrambling in through the gaps that I had left! Damn it! For a good 4 hours, masses of bees had been hitting this hive. In retrospect, I made it worse by giving them a whole frame of honey during the initial split. I have been told to never give a new split that much honey (unless you are giving them 10 frames of bees). I basically gave them 4 frames, 1 of which was solid honey and a beacon to the lazy bums of my other hives. It was heartbreaking, as I was really under a lot of pressure from life issues today and these two queen releases were the only bright spots.

Well, there’s nothing for it except to chalk it up for experience. I will always double-check my tops on the smaller hives going forward. I will never give a small hive a full frame of honey in the hot summer (it not only contributes to robbing, but can also create an issue with the Small Hive Beetle, as the bees do not have enough number to adequately protect it.

I can only hope and pray that the queen is ok. I am sure that a very large number of my bees in the Apache Hive perished in fighting the foes. Hopefully, this will not doom them. I will get that frame of honey out of the hive tomorrow, assuming that the mass robbing has stopped. If it hasn’t, I will have to figure out other methods.

Another one for the story books.

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