First inspections of the year.
My bees have been left to their own devices for 5 months or so and with a warm end of February when bees were flying well, most colonies were inspected and all were good – except one which should have had a late model 2018 queen and it turned out that she wasn’t there. How do I know? The reason is quite simply that I had clipped and marked her previously and she was fine in September. Come my inspection this year, the colony didn’t have as many bees as I would have expected which was clue one that I might find a problem. Then the third frame came out (from an 8 frame nuc) and there were no eggs or larvae but I would have expected there to be some. The next frame had brood but only drones – the usual signs of there being just drone eggs is that they are raised above the usual height and a bit patchy, the reason for this being that there is not enough room for all comb to be laid up as larger drones so the bees pull a few out making gaps. No worker brood in sight. At this point I could have still had laying workers in the hive rather than a DLQ, however it is common to see multiple eggs in cells with laying workers. The next frame confirmed it. There was just one open queencell – and more drone brood. So a late supercedure occurred and the young queen was not able to mate – it being too cold for her to do so. After a queen has been around for a few weeks her ability to mate and lay fertillised worker eggs stops and drone eggs are, sadly, the result. The colony is not viable after that without intervention.
Picture: Drone brood
Now to intervene. Now to find her. Without too many bees, after a couple of minutes, I saw a nice sized queen with no markings and no clipped wing. So it definitely was not the queen I saw 5 months previously. Something I HATE doing is killing a queen but it has to be done sometimes. With a little nip she was gone.
With the winter being so mild, I had a couple of mini-nucs that had got through thus far.
Picture: Small frame from a mini-nuc.
An ideal place to house a queen that would have otherwise not even entered into 2019. Small nucs don’t always survive winter but they did this year. The queen was quickly found, caged and placed between the two (drone) brood frames of the now, queenless hive. A hive that has had a DLQ and is now queenless is pretty desperate for a new queen so my thoughts were that the chances of refusal were slight. I was correct, as it turned out; a week or so later she was walking on a frame and there were her eggs in the hive. Result! The colony is small but viable now. The mini-nuc will be shaken out in front of another hive sometime soon. So the bees won’t go to waste and will strengthen another colony.