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Almost Too Late…

My four (maybe 5) day Honey Bee weekend continues to be the adventure that my first day of beekeeping was. My goal today had simply been to put up 4 swarm traps and check my hives at Goose Pond Lane. One of those hives was acting very weird (baseball-sized brood nest on 4 frames) a few weeks back. I fellow beekeeper, to the west of Richmond, Virginia, mentioned it might be a failing queen. I wanted to see if that ole gal was still putting out a few eggs or not (if not, I was going to give them a frame from the Amped Up Westover hive, across the road. Well, as they say, the best laid plans of mice and men…

Yesterday evening, I posted some more bee experiences and then checked on a couple of Richmond-area beekeeping blogs that I monitor. The fellow in Buckingham was making splits! I have been talking about making Nucs for weeks now – reading his post (matched with my experiences with the Westover Hive yesterday) had me thinking – I need to get on the ball! So, my first task today was to create at least one Nuc off of Larry.

As a reminder, Larry has a Deep, then a Medium and then a Shallow. I assumed that nothing but honey was in the Shallow and only a bit of brood was in the Medium. So, I went directly to the Deep. I had two Nuc boxes handy, but was only going to do one Nuc, unless I found a bunch of frames of eggs. Ha!

I started on the Deep and pulled one frame of pollen to match one of my frames of honey that I had pulled from a hive earlier this year. Three spaces left to find the queen and put her, with some brood and hopefully a bit of open comb (for laying) in. Made it through the whole Deep with a quick check and no Queen – is she in that Medium? There was nothing but honey in that Medium a ONE week ago, and capped to boot. But, maybe she was in there.

She wasn’t in there, but something of note was in there. The first frame that I pulled had the regular drone brood on the bottom of the frames. Most had been pulled apart when I separated the two supers. But, one looked odd. Looking back on it, I laugh at myself now. ‘Wow, I have never seen such a big drone – and hanging straight off the comb‘ was my first thought when I saw the exposed pupae. Then I looked closer. Daggone it! That’s a daggone capped queen cell! Sheesh. I had just read (maybe in Increase Essentials) the last night or two where, once in swarm mode, the old queen hits the road when the swarm cells are capped! So, now my mind is racing. Am I too late? Have they already swarmed? I found it hard to believe they had swarmed. Bees were 2 and 3 levels deep on some of those frames. Keep your eye on the ball, Jones.

Two more frames and now I am looking at 2 capped swarm cells and one they they are still feeding. Despair is setting in. Not sure what I am going to find, I go with the positive outlook and scan those frames real hard for the queen again. No queen. I place that frame in my spare Nuc (this one is now going to be a Nuc with swarm cells.) I keep at it.

Before I finish the Medium, I find two more frames with 2 or more swarm cells. I leave them in the primary box and keep looking for that damnable queen. Has she flown the coop? No queen, but she really went to town laying. They either ate that honey or moved it within the last week, as there was tons of capped brood.

Hitting the shallow, I am now committed to going through all of the boxes again. That queen can’t be gone! The shallow surprises me as it, too, is full of brood, although at a later stage then the Medium. Not a swarm cell on these (that I saw, anyway). Back to the Deep.

The bees in the Deep are pissed now. I am not smoking them, but a few come off and sting my glove. I am thinking this is because they have been without their queen (who must be in that worthless Medium). But, after going through 7 frames, I find her! Bonzai! Whoohoo! I put the grand ole lady into the original Nuc and then, feeling like the King of Bees, shook several frames of brood in both boxes. I double checked the honey/pollen stores in both Nucs and then fortified the original hive with several frames of foundation (they have some time to draw out the wax, waiting for their new queen(s) to come out.)

All in all, not what I planned for today, but I am feeling good about it. No matter what happens (unless I lose all three), it will be a learning experience. I might even go into Larry to steal one of the swarm cells (there are several capped and uncapped still in that box.) But, that’s a task for tomorrow.

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