When my phone sounds like an oddly mixed flock of birds, I know someone is trying very hard to get hold of me. I was busy being a park ranger this morning and was unable to answer my phone so I heard the following. First, the bobolink song (that means a general phone call). Second, I hear a flock a flock of gadwall (that means someone left a voicemail). Third, a goshawk is screaming (Non Birding Bill is calling from his office phone). Fourth, a pileated woodpecker sings (NBB is now trying to reach me on his cell phone). Fifth, a veery warbles (someone is leaving a text message). All of this in the span of three minutes. Something must have been up.
And it was. When I finally got to listen to the messages, Lorraine said the post office left a message that our queens arrived and needed to be picked up. Queens? Plural? I had only ordered one...why did I have more than one and more importantly, what would I do with an excess of queen bees? Yikes!
We are planning on dividing the Olga hive and starting a new colony (Kitty 2). To do this, you take a box from the strong Olga colony that is full of workers and brood (and make darn sure that Queen Olga isn't in that box) and you place a new queen in a cage in that box and gradually introduce everybody and hopefully in about five days you have a new hive started. The old hive continues growing and if it's strong enough, doesn't miss the box you used for the divide. I only need one queen for this, so having additional queens was a tad alarming.
Well, it turns out that the post office was a tad confused. We did in fact only get one queen and she has a few workers to attend her while in her cage. To the uninitiated, this would seem like a small box of queens. Whew, on only getting one queen. There is still some concern, the queen is a whole week early and Olga is not ready for a divide. Heck, I'm not even ready for the divide. According to my Beekeeping In Northern Climates book, if we keep the queen in a cool, dark place and feed her one drop of sugar water a day, she can live like this for "several days"...does that seven days? Well, we'll find out. I'm leaving town on Thursday and Olga still needs to be prepped before we can do the divide, the queen will have to wait.
So, after plying NBB with some liquor, I think I have a plan. He'll go out this weekend and on Saturday (perhaps with Lorraine and Mr. Neil's help) prep Olga for the divide. He'll need to open Olga up, check and see that there are five to seven frames of brood in the top two boxes of the Olga Hive, if one has more than the other, he'll need to even it out. Then he'll put in a queen excluder between the top two boxes. When I go out next Wednesday to remove one of the boxes, all I'll have to do is look for eggs. Whichever box has fresh bee eggs will be the box that has the Olga queen and that box will stay put. The box without eggs will go to start the new Kitty 2 hive with the queen we just received in the mail today.
How did spring go from the delightful time of watching warblers and playing with bees to holy-crap-how-will-I-survive-this-season?