Cautiously Optimistic

In my last bee post in June, I mentioned the weak hive. My remedy of putting in a few frames of brood from my other hive did not work. The next time I went into the hive, it had been heavily invaded with wax moths. There evil invaders take advantage of weak hives. Normally, the bees are able to fight them off but my hive was just not strong enough. It is just ugly: they make sticky webs across the frames and the worms eat into the wax. The only positive part was that there were still a large number of bees in the hive.

I made an emergency call to a bee keeping expert. Could I at least try to save this hive? He advised swapping frames with the healthy hive again, adding any unaffected frames from the invaded hives and reducing the whole hive to one box. I ended up with six frames of bees, brood and honey and added four empty frames to fill the box.

I am lousy at finding queens so couldn’t find one. But, after a week or so, I found the evidence of the bees making an emergency queen. This is another one of those fascinating things that bees do and one of the reasons I don’t buy queens. It just makes sense that having the bees make one is better than introducing one.

Once they make a queen, it’s all a game of timelines and numbers. From laid egg to hatch is 16 days for a queen. Then another 5 to 6 days  until she is ready to make her mating flight. Then, a few more days until she lays eggs. It can be 28 days plus or minus 5 days.

So, today, when I pulled some frames, I saw larvae. Yay! That works perfectly with the timeline. I reduced the hive to one box on July 12. Around July 31, I saw hatched queen cells. That’s 19 days. Larvae show up in about 3 to 5 days after the eggs are laid. That means my larvae were eggs around August 6, 25 days after this all began, just about a perfect timeline.

It is going to take 20 days for those larvae to turn into bees. Workers bees live about 40 days. I put capped brood in the hive on July 12. There wasn’t a whole lot left on July 31. That means the current bees in the hive are anywhere from 14 to 28 days old. So, I am expecting to see the population go down in the next couple weeks. I may need to add one more frame of brood from my healthy hive, which had plenty of open brood.

So…I am cautiously optimistic that I can save this hive. I did commit to getting two more nucs of bees. If all goes well, I will have four active hives.

Today was also the first day of dusting the bees with confectioner’s sugar. It is a known, organic method for fighting varroa mites. They live on the bees so when you dust them, they clean off the sugar and get rid of the mites at the same time. I have sheets with grids that I can slide in the hide to do a mite count and may do so the next time I check the hives.

I continue to balance nature and management. All the beekeepers I know are having a tough year: the late frost killed off the blossoms that fuel the spring flow and some hives, like mine, never requeened. This is the most management I’ve had to do int the three years I have had the hives and I’m hoping it will save my hive.

One item of interest: I am getting nucs from someone who practices Slovenian bee keeping, a method that makes it easier for people to manage a hive. A typical hive box can weigh 50 pounds. It is right on the edge of what I can lift so if I am going to continue this hobby into my next decade, a friendlier method would be welcome. I am looking forward to seeing the operation.

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