Thursday, June 14, 2012

Waiting for Summer

The back to back storms we have had here over the last week have been hard on the hives and the girls are getting antsy for some nice weather!  Comb building has stalled and they aren't raising much new brood.  The drone population has dropped quite a bit as well.  They still have enough stores to keep them from starving so I haven't put feed on yet, plus the forecast is also predicting some nice weather.  Blackberries have started blooming in several patches around the hill and the locust trees are now in full bloom.

Working Spanish Lavender.  This is the first of the lavenders to bloom here.

Collecting pollen from Rock Rose as it opens.

As a follow up to last weeks post I wanted to talk about the special cells they build for queens.  Bees naturally build queen cups which are empty cells that can be used for raising queens.  There may be several of these to a frame or a couple in the whole hive.  Typically they remain empty and are not used unless there is a need for a new queen in which case the queen will lay a fertilized egg in them and they will be called a supersedure or swarm cell.  These cells are not the same as emergency cells where a worker cell is modified to make it bigger.  

Empty queen cups.  Note that the comb is reversed here and these actually open downwards. 

Opened queen cell after queen has emerged.  You could also see a queen cell with a hole in the side which is a sign that another queen has emerged first and killed the competition in the other cells.

Supersedure is a natural process where the queen is replaced and sometimes you will find both the new and old queen in the hive at the same time.  This allows them to assess the new queen before killing the old queen and is one of the rare times when two queens will be tolerated in a hive.  The old queen may also be killed by the new queen as soon as she emerges.  An old queen may be replaced for a variety of reasons and not just age related.

Swarming is a process where the old queen is still going strong and the hive is at a point where it is getting cramped and can split.  The queen will lay eggs in queen cups and then leave the hive taking up to 2/3rds of the bees with her before the new queens emerge.

Emergency queen is a process where something unplanned has happened to the queen or her presence is no longer felt in part of the hive.  When this occurs the bees will chose several female larvae of a very young age to raise as queens.  The main difference here is that the cell the larvae was laid in must be made larger to be suitable for a queen bee.  Newer wax cells are ideal for making these modifications as the older wax is harder and less flexible.  Emergency queen cells can produce a queen of equal quality as those from a queen cup granted the bees are able to modify the cell.

One final point to make is that worker bees and queen bees are both female and develop from fertilized eggs.  An unfertilized egg will turn into a drone (male) bee.  The important difference between an egg that turns into a worker bee vs a queen bee is the food sources they are given.  The queen is exclusively fed royal jelly (a very high quality food source) while the worker bees only get a tiny bit of royal jelly when they first develop and then are fed nectar/honey and bee bread made from pollen.  Not only does this high quality food source allow the fertilized egg to fully mature into a queen that can sexually reproduce, it also results in a bigger bee that develops in 16 days vs a worker that takes 21 days to fully develop.  It is a pretty impressive example of how important diet is on early development.

A favorite water source is sometimes more popular on cloudy/rainy days.

Hive checks (6/9/2012)

This hive is building up and they are taking syrup with this rainy weather.  I took a half frame of eggs from them to give to Surf.  They are building comb more quickly now as well.

Unfortunately still no eggs in this hive.  The queen is there looking the part, but not walking the walk and the girls are getting pissy.  If I have a nuc queen that is showing signs of a good start I'll replace this queen next week if she still isn't doing anything.  I suspect I'll find queen cells on the frame of eggs that were donated from Sand.

Hive checks (6/10/2012)

Drop in drones this week and not many eggs/larvae found.  The queen looked fine and I suspect the drop in drones and eggs is due to the storm this week.

Same condition as the Librarians this week.  Comb production has slowed down as well.  

This girl found some bright orange/red pollen.

Same as the Geeks this week. 

Nuc 2
Found the queen, no eggs or brood yet.  

Nuc 3
Opened the dead queen cell and it looks like the queen died just after it was capped.  Both the new queen cells are capped and should open this week.

Nuc 4
No queen found. I have never found the emerged queen in this hive.  I'm assuming she was lost during mating.

Nuc 5
Found the queen, no eggs or brood yet.  Combined bees from Nuc 4 with this hive to give them a boost. 

No check this week.  Peaked behind the follower to check their syrup levels and snapped this shot of what they are up to.

Building new comb.

That's the update, and now back to waiting for summer to start.

- Jeff

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