Over the last 24 hours, I have gotten a bit over an inch of much needed rain and more is in the future! Per usual, I will likely go from complaining about not enough rain to fretting about too much rain! It seems I am never satisfied with what Mother Nature dishes out:) Regardless, my Nucs are rocking and, with this rain, I am betting that I will have many very strong Nucs in 2 weeks. No doubt, I will have more than I currently have demand for and am likely to post to Craigslist soon! But, that’s a good problem to have so I am not complaining!
Over the past few days, between swarm calls, I have received a lot of calls and emails about queens. For one reason or another, folks always seem to be looking for queens this time of the year. Instead of launching into my typical spiel about sustainable beekeeping and that everyone should have at least one Nuc, I will point folks to a past spiel on that score (see http://richmondhoneybee.com/nucs/nuc.html). Today, I will talk about the supposed “queenless state”.
First, I will pass on a recent experience from a great lady out in the country where I have a very successful apiary on the James River here in Central Virginia. She began keeping bees a few years ago, purchasing a couple of Nucs from me and has been very dedicated to the hobby and doing it correctly. She was actively in her hives and noticed, in early April I believe, that one of her hives had no capped brood at all – not even drone brood. She found open queen cells, but nothing else. If you remember your bee math, this means that there has been no queen in that hive for possibly 24 days (drones hatch then). In my experience, a new queen (post swarm) is laying before all of the drones hatch, but it is possible to have a couple of days between a queen starting to lay and the last drone hatching, in cooler weather. She was fairly certain she was without a queen, so she dropped a frame of eggs (from a nearby, queen-right hive) into the troubling hive. I advised her to go back 3 weeks later to see if she had an open queen cell (the bees should raise a new queen within 14 to 16 days, if they were without one.)
Instead, she found several frames of capped brood and a thriving hive. What happened here? Even though it appeared that she did not have a queen, she actually did. The young queen was simply slow to get started and working on her own timeline, like they always do! The key here is that she had an available frame of eggs to put in the hive, just in case. It was simply insurance. It turned out she did not need it, but it was reassuring that she did.
The ability to maintain your hives under queens of local stock cannot be understated. Purchasing queens from out of state, from differing geographical regions, increases risk to your hives in my view and experience.