Sunday, May 23, 2010

Piping Queen

I did a full inspection of both hives a few days ago. I think they are both looking good but I am not entirely sure what is going on inside Georgia. The results were as follows:

Georgia is still crammed full of bees. As I reported in an earlier post Georgia has been topped with 2 medium honey supers. I had originally put on only one super but a couple weeks ago or so I found that the hive was packed with bees from the bottom board to the outer cover. There was nectar being stored in the first super but none of it had been capped yet. I decided to add a second super just to give the bees a little more room. I provided a top entrance with the second super to make it easier for the bees to get in and out of the supers and hopefully make more honey. As of today, however, none of the bees seem to discovered the top entrance and I have not seen a single bee use it.

During this inspection I found uncapped nectar in both supers. Some of the frames in the first are filling up, but there is not much in the second. I think that we are kind of in between nectar flows right now; the fruit trees and dandelions are winding down and the alfalfa is not ready yet. Hopefully the alfalfa will get going before to long and the bees can really get busy. Alfalfa is the main nectar flow in the Big Horn Basin; it blooms continuously from maybe the end of May until maybe the beginning of October. Here is an interesting map with major nectar flow information.

Back to the inspection. I went through every frame of the brood nest to make sure there weren't any swarm cells and I didn't find any. That is a good thing. There were lots of eggs, larva, and capped brood. The photo below is a frame from the upper deep hive body.

I thought that the amount of capped brood here was pretty impressive. This queen is certainly prolific. The fact that this queen has been so great is the reason I am now a little confused as to what exactly is going on in there. You see, during the inspection a week or so ago I found capped brood and eggs, but no larva. I thought that was a little odd. This spring I have seen several queen cups; some up high in the frames (supercedure position) and some along the bottom of the frames (swarm position) but all had been empty. Until that last inspection, that is. At that time, as I lifted one of the frames out, I found a capped queen cell on the bottom of a frame (swarm position) but only one of them. When they are preparing to swarm they usually build several swarm cells. This queen cell must have been connected to the frame next to it as well because as I pulled it out it ripped the cell open and exposed the entire pupa inside. I cleaned it up with the hive tool replaced the frame.

Now fast forward to a few days ago- As I was down in the bottom deep I heard this warbling sound coming from inside the hive. It was loud enough to be heard over all the buzzing of the bees. I wasn't sure but I thought it might be the sound of a piping queen. I did an internet search and came across some recordings. Sure enough, that is exactly what I heard. Now, as I understand it, piping comes from a virgin queen as she prepares to mate. So, what do I have? A hive with the existing queen and a virgin queen that is preparing to swarm? Or a queen from a supercedure cell mounting a coup? And where did this piping queen come from? Scotland? OK- that was a bad joke, but I really have always wanted to go to Scotland and learn to play the bagpipes. Back to the subject at hand- I can't imagine that the bees would want to supercede this queen and I haven't seen any capped queen cells except for the one that broke open. What is going on here!?

As I opened Virginia I looked through her super and found lots of uncapped nectar so I did not add a second super at this time. I imagine I will have to add one once the alfalfa gets going.

Going through the brood nest I came across this little girl chewing here way out of her cell. See her photo below.

I am thoroughly impressed by Virginia's queen this spring. This hive struggled last summer and there wasn't a huge population going in to the winter. I was thinking of re-queening her this spring but never got around to it. I wonder if the bees re-queened themselves last fall because she has built up explosively this spring. While in the brood nest it seemed that bees were coming out of nowhere. I had to smoke to clear the bees out enough pull out a frame and after looking at if for about 15 seconds I would have to smoke again to move the bees out of the way to put the frame back in. I seriously could not see the frames in the box for all the bees covering them. I did find that there was lots of pollen and honey in the brood chamber and it looked like the queen might be running out of room so I expanded the broodnest by pulling a frame with honey and pollen from the edge and placing an empty frame in the middle. I hope we are almost through the spring swarm season so the bees can just get down to business and make us some honey!


Mary Ann said...

I've read that piping is the old queen calling the new queen, luring her to kill her. Now I cannot remember where I read that, but I know that's what I read. Kind of macabre!

Great blog, thanks.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...