Monday, May 13, 2013

Reproducing Royalty

Adam did some bee work. He came through the winter with two big, healthy hives, the Langstroth (on the right) and the Warre hive (on the left). The hive in the middle died because of a weak queen.
He wants to force the two hives to produce new queens so he can start some new hives. He tried forcing them by putting plastic queen cups in the hive. But bees don't like plastic, so they wouldn't use the queen cups.  (These cups are small receptacles where a bee larva will be placed and tended to become a new queen. They're larger than the usual comb cups for other baby bees.)

Then he tried moving a few frames of bees and brood into a new box, hoping the bees would make a new queen, but they didn't. That's why that tiny little box is next to the red Langstroth hive in the photo above. It's called a nuc box.
The Langstroth hive was doing so well that Adam put in another short super. A super is a box placed on top of an existing hive to encourage the hive's bees to expand into it, building more comb, laying more baby bees, storing more honey. He placed the new empty super in between the two existing (full) boxes, the red and white ones. That way the bees in the top super (white) will have to pass through the empty super on their way back and forth from the hive entrance. They'll realize the super is empty and want to fill it up.
He has good frames full of bees doing their thing.
Don't know if you can see this -- on the top edge of this frame he's holding, is a natural queen cup. (It looks like a little acorn with a hole in the end.) It was in the Warre hive. Evidently the queen in that hive was weakening so the bees decided to make a new queen. The cup was empty, so the new queen is already working in the hive. Adam reassembled that hive as-is, and left it alone. He needs to wait now to see how strong this new queen will be.
You can see what a chaotic mess he had for a bit. He took apart the middle hive altogether since it was empty. But a stack of hive boxes doesn't stay empty -- some wax moths had moved in and eaten holes in some of the wax hanging in there. Ugh -- he had to clean those frames out. He wants the bees to reuse that old wax. And in the bottom box, a mouse had made a nest.
Adam had to clean out the nest. The mama mouse fled away. The baby was left in the pine needles under the tree, sadly. I could hear it squeaking for a few minutes. It was pitiful. I felt very sorry for it, but there's nothing to be done. The mice can't have our bee boxes. It died. Isn't it odd how something that would disgust me in my kitchen or bathroom, elicits only sympathy in the woods?
Our bees live in a bee's paradise. Here are some of the flowers in our friends' garden.
Thanks for visiting our beehives with us!


  1. Your bees do have beautiful flowers! Very interesting post. I'm so impressed with your husband, out there in shorts and no protection. My grandfather used to keep bees, but he always wore his "bee suit":)

  2. Angela, he is rarely stung, and usually only if he's really digging into the hives. He wears light-colored clothing. Bees dislike dark clothes. And he only works on the bees on days when the weather is fine and they are receptive to him. If they start "bumping" him (flying into him), they're telling him they don't want to be messed with, and he stops and leaves. He also moves very, very slowly. Bees only see fairly rapid movement. When I say slow, I mean SLOW :) He also keeps his fingers together, so he doesn't accidentally squish a bee -- that's often how you get stung. He wears long sleeves and a closed collar, and a hat. All this helps.


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