It looks like it is time to re-queen one of the hives. But I'm not doing it- the bees are taking care of that themselves.
Back on June 1st I reported that the queens in both hives had really slowed down in the brood production department. I was hopeful that they had slowed down because the nectar flow had slowed and that there was nothing seriously wrong with them.
As I started Georgia's inspection I could tell right away that things were different. This had been such a great hive which supplied us with the majority of the 75 pounds of honey we harvested last year. She survived the winter in nice style and built up explosively this spring. But as I started going through the supers today I could tell that the population had dropped off a little and there was no more honey in the supers now than 2 weeks ago. As I started making my way through the broodnest I did find capped brood, some larva, and a few eggs which had been laid in a spotty pattern. Finally I came across this frame seen below.
Here we have two empty queen cups and a capped supercedure queen cell near the top of this partially drawn frame. It looks like the bees are mounting a coup and preparing to replace the current queen. I will let this queen develop, mate, and take over the hive rather than ordering a new mated queen to install. Installing a new queen would require finding and getting rid of the existing queen. Since I haven't been able to find either queen since shortly after we installed the packages last spring, I'm not sure how successful I would be at finding her now. This whole scenario really is a little disappointing- I was hoping that this hive would keep booming and really pound out the honey this summer. Let's hope that we can recover from this little set back in time.
Virginia, on the other hand, seems to be doing a lot better. She has 2 medium honey supers- the first had fully drawn frames and the second had some partially drawn and some empty frames. The first super is almost filled with uncapped honey- the outer frames are about half filled and the central frames are completely filled and are starting to be capped. Up in the second super the bees are starting to draw more comb to fill with honey.
Down in the brood nest I discovered that the queen has picked up laying again- I found lots of eggs, larva, and capped brood all in a nice tight pattern. I also found 6 or 7 swarm cells/queen cups along the bottom of the frames of the upper deep hive body. The bees have plenty of room right now and I suspect that this past week of cool rainy weather made them go a little stir crazy and start thinking about swarming. I cut out the swarm cells (two of them had royal jelly but were not even close to being capped) and queen cups. With warm weather in the forecast maybe the bees will start working outside and stop thinking about swarming.