Queen Excluder Time

I took this photo of an entrance reducer to show you guys what it is...I didn't notice the juxtaposition of Non Birding Bill until after I downloaded photos. If you read my answers at Nerve.com, you get the joke (insert naughty giggle here).

I'm confused about the Kitty hive, but I have a plan and am rallied by all the support! First, let's talk good news: Olga was reversed and given a queen excluder and a propolis trap today! Chances are good, that last sentence made very little sense to you, but it's a whoot in my book.

Olga had filled all three of her brood boxes with eggs and honey. Since all the frames in the boxes were 100% filled with drawn out comb, we need to switch the top box with the bottom brood box. Bees tend to fill hives from the top down, so to encourage more brood, we needed to switch--all the frames in the bottom box have hatched, all the frames on the top were full of freshly laid eggs. I'm SO glad NBB was with me. I learned something today: a brood box full of honey and brood is too heavy for me to lift...and I can lift sixty pounds without a problem.

It was a messy business. As we took the whole hive apart, worker bees were running a amok, gathering all over the sides. We smoked the crap out of them, but still had a tough time keeping them out of the way. Now, I see the value of a hive brush. One of the instructors in the class inferred that the hive brush was an unnecessary tool, but we could have used one today. I ended up sweeping all of the bees out of the way with my glove--boy they really didn't like that! But it was that or squishing them as we put the hive back together.

After we reversed the hive and reassembled it, I placed the queen excluder on top of the three brood boxes. This allows only the workers to pass above the brood boxes and insure that all the frames placed above this point will only be filled with honey. After I set it on top, I watched closely to insure that the workers could pass through--yes they could.

After we put on our honey supers, I placed a propolis trap on top of them. This will encourage our bees to produce more of the sticky stuff they use to seal up the hive for us to eat. Ah, propolis--irritating when inspecting the hive, tasty and nutritious in your tea.

Now, on to the Kitty hive! I wanted to take a look today to see if there were any eggs--hoping against hope that a new queen had returned from a mating flight and had started laying. As I scanned, I found a bee emerging and was watching it...then I found something troubling. Notice the worker bee right above the emerging bee? That worker bee is doing something she shouldn't--she's plunked her little abdomen into a cell to lay an egg! Doh! That really isn't a good sign for this hive. She sat in there for some time, almost appeared to be struggling like she was constipated.

I watched the hive and the other frames for a long time (at least a half hour) and only found this one worker bee trying to lay eggs. Here's the problem. When a healthy queen is present, workers don't lay eggs. When a queen is gone and the workers aren't controlled by her pheromone, ovaries develop in the workers and they begin to lay eggs. These eggs are infertile and will only turn into drones (female workers and queens are the result of fertilized eggs). If this is happening, this means that there is no viable queen. Perhaps I did kill off all of the queen cells right before the swarm--my effort to prevent the swarm has kind of doomed the colony.

There are other signs of this as well--spotty drone cells capped over in the worker brood frames. Above the bee is a capped over cell that looks puffy--that's a drone that has been laid in a worker cell. All the flat capped over cells are capped worker cells. I called B&B Honey Farms--that's who I have been getting all of our bee supplies from. They ran out of replacement queens last week, so the very helpful Tammy went over some options with me. She agreed that one bee laying eggs is a very bad sign for that hive and I need to take action now.

1. Can I find the swarm? Boy howdy have I tried, but the woods are so thick and full of hollow trees, it's like trying to find a needle in a haystack.

2. Do I want to pick up a swarm? There are apparently quite a few showing up along Hwy 90 and 94 through Minnesota and Wisconsin. Someone who travels around so their bees can pollinate farms has lost six already. One was in Tomah at a truck stop if I wanted to go for it. A little too far away for me at the moment.

3. Combine what's left of Kitty with the strong Olga hive using the newspaper method.

4. Then I ran an idea I came across on the Hive Mind Bee Blog(one of the beekeepers who answered questions like I did on Nerve.com): take a frame or two of brood from the Olga hive (making sure that it's full of freshly laid eggs) and inserting that into the Kitty hive. Like birds, bees look at eggs as something needing to be raised. They will take some of the eggs (they will all be fertilized and therefore female) and place them in queen cells. The only difference between a worker bee and a queen is that the queen is raised entirely on royal jelly. If one of those queens makes it, she will go on the mating flight and then come back and lay eggs. Also, the bees won't turn all the eggs into the queen, but raise them as workers--this will put some new life back in the hive to cover for the lack of eggs being laid in the last few weeks. Tammy said I could try it, however for every person who has had it work, there's another person who hasn't had it work. I think it's crazy enough of a plan that it just might work. What have I got to lose at this point anyway?

I think that's what we'll try tomorrow...too bad we just did the reversal and all the eggs are in the bottom box. Ah well, it'll be good exercise.

Because Kitty's progress we had to change the third brood box. When you start them, you put in ten frames to help with the way the comb is drawn out. Once they fill the brood box, you take one of the frames out so you only have nine in there. When you are expanding, you put the tenth frame in the new brood box. We'll we've expanded all we can in the Olga hive and the supers for honey are too small to hold a brood frame.

So, I brought it in and we had a little of the honey in our tea. It wasn't capped over, so it wasn't true honey, but it tasted awful darn close.

It was yummy! Although, now that we are going to take a frame of brood out of Olga and put it in the Kitty hive, we'll need to put this frame back in Olga. Good thing we didn't scrape off all the honey from her comb.

Refreshed, recharged, and ready to tackle the situation!