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One Hive Wears Me Down

It’s been a really wild week and the roller coaster ride continued through yesterday. Hopefully, I was able to get off this daggone thing. This will probably be a long post, but I want to get this stuff down (for future reference) before the old brain loses it.

Larry has been the focus of my ventures this past week, based on my assumption that it had cast two swarms. I finally was able to get into the hive yesterday, after work. After what I discovered, a bit of a history check is worthwhile.

Larry was a hive that I purchased from a fellow last year (along with the Moe and Curly hives). He was getting out of the business, didn’t treat and had hives for a good price. But (and this is key), he had a weird setup. He ran with Shallows over Deeps. I run Mediums over Deeps, so I dropped a Medium on the hives and put a feeder on them to help them out (it was July when I got them.) They never finished the Medium, although they did get some capped honey on 60% of the frames. I left them in a Deep-Shallow-Medium setup.

So, in late February, as I did my initial Spring chores, I swapped the Shallow and the Medium without looking at the frames (I could see capped honey from the top of the Shallow and was in a hurry, so I assumed it was all honey.) A week later, when I did actually pull the frames, I found a good bit of brood in 5 of the Shallow frames, with bees still tending them. So, I had a bunch of nurse bees in the Deep and fair number in the Shallow and a Medium super that was nearly full of honey separating them. At the time, I was annoyed that I broke up the brood nest, but the hive was so strong I let it be.

Well, I now think this has something to do with the strange occurrences in Larry. On March 19, I discovered swarm cells and took several frames from Larry, including several of the queen cells (that have hatched in Nucs already) and the old queen. Two weeks later, I hived two swarms from Larry, both of which are already building up nicely. I broke them apart yesterday and found 11 more queen cells (at this point, I would insert a very nasty word if I was not a God fearing man.) Very little brood is in this hive now and I could find no eggs or a queen. At this point, I became a bit frustrated (yes, I do become frustrated with these little wenches on occasion.) I took 6 more frames from this hive, each with at least 1 queen cell, and put them in my two new Queen castles (for raising queens later this year…assuming I ever get to that point.) I then took a Deep of honey off of the William Byrd Hive (they ended up with a Deep-Medium-Deep setup last Fall) and added the resources to these new setups. I am fine with losing some of these. It is more of an experiment then anything (I have one that is nothing but a shallow frame of bees – hardly any at all.)

Then, today, I go into my Nucs and the sections of the Queen castles and actually find TWO virgin queens on one of the Queen Castle sections (these are three frames wide, each). I took one and gave it to my weakest QC (Queen Castle) setup (the one with only a shallow of brood/honey/bees). I found two other queens that had hatched and even saw one in the midst of hatching! It looked to me like the daggone queen was face forward – the bees were tearing the cell off of her and I got a good shot of tail.

Being completely fed up with the daggone shallow (and now thinking that maybe I have two sets of bees working at odds with each other in the same hive), I took the daggone thing off the hive, made sure it had a queen cell and created a split with it (adding an empty Medium above it.)

The bottom line is that I now have 2 swarms, a shallow split, an old queen Nuc, 4 hatched queens (2 Nuc, 2 QC) and 3 setups with 1 or more queen cells from this hive – over a period of almost a month. And the original hive continues on! I’m not sure if I missed a swarm (or two), but I think that this last adjustment should set them back a bit. I am actually tired of this now. I just want them to go into build up (and provide a little honey maybe…Hello?)

I’m sure there would be many opinions on what is going on with Larry. At this point, I honestly believe that separating those nurse bees with a full Medium super of honey must have made them start acting like two different hives. They were all in swarm mode when I separated them and then continued on that path, separately, afterwards. Who knows. I have now removed the problem super (replacing with an empty Medium) and taken a ton of frames and bees from them. They have a lot of work to do. If they swarm again, so be it. That’s one for the wilds. My only focus on future checks for this hive is that they actually did end up with their own queen who is happy to stay around.

On another note, grabbing a queen is not a simple thing. It might be my fingers, but I couldn’t get a handle on the queen that was on a frame with another queen. Finally, she flew off. I saw her land on the frame again a few seconds later and ended up using one of those queen grabbers. I want to mark my queens this year. It is turning out to be much harder then I expected. But, the QC queens will give me plenty of practice.

3 comments to One Hive Wears Me Down

  • Robert Heiskell

    Wow. You have to name all these additions as Larry 1, Larry 2 or something so we can keep up with how each does. If they call develop a full colony, you will be so lucky!

  • Heh. I started to try to name them but gave up as the insanity continued. I ended up calling them Nuc A, B, etc… (for the Nuc’s) or QC A, QC B, etc.. (for Queen Castle Section). It will be interesting to see how they all do. I hope to use some simply as back-up’s throughout the year (in case I need a queen, a frame of brood or a shake of nurse bees for something.) We’ll see. It’s been a banner year for bees so far, but (with my luck) I’ll probably be lucky to get two good hives off of them all!

  • Doug Ladd

    I think your dead on witht he medium of honey seperating them. Last year i made the mistake rushing with a hive and seperated a queen onto one frame with two foundation frames. The queenless half made cells, and the queen right frame started swarm cells when she ran out of room… bees are crazy creatures arnt they?!!!

    I am just glad i am not the only insane person in this world…LOL

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