From Bleak To Hopeless
My mom asked me to mow the lawn today, and because I hadn’t moved the bees entirely out of the way yet, that required suiting up. I made up 6 cups of sugar syrup, set up the lawn mower, and donned my suit. I decided to open the bees before mowing the lawn, just because I had heard that lawn mowers often irritate bees a great deal when used in close proximity. I was very excited to find that honey had made its way into the hive since the drought ended a week or two ago. There was some capped honey on the outer frames, with even less in the middle. It wasn’t anywhere near enough to get them through the winter, but I was happy they had any at all.
I grew less and less cheerful as I neared the middle of the colony. There didn’t seem to be any eggs on any of the frames, despite the two full frames worth of pollen scattered around. I got all the way to the other side of the box without seeing any sign of queen Samantha. There weren’t any eggs or young larvae to be seen anywhere. So, despite the honey stores, there’s no queen to rejuvenate the population. I thought the last time I opened the hive looked hopeless, but today proved me wrong. I’m going to look around online and see if anyone has any queens for sale, but this late in the year I would be beyond amazed. I suppose I could try for a nuke, but with so little stores I don’t see the point in getting that many more bees to feed.
The dirtiness of all the capped brood makes me think they’ve been capped for a while. Maybe since a few days after I opened the hive last time? I’m thinking I must’ve squished Samantha accidentally. I don’t know why the bees wouldn’t have made any effort to make a new queen though, because there wasn’t any sign of that at all. I saw a single swarm cell at the bottom of a frame, but it was dirt and old, and hadn’t been used in a while.
I moved the colony 5-6 feet closer to the house, into a patch of the lawn that hasn’t turned green from the rains yet. Then I filled up the plastic container on the top of the telescoping cover, inside the empty warre’ box sitting on top of the langstroth, with the sugar water I had made. I put the empty measuring cups in the lawn, a few feet from the hives previous location so the bees could clean them while I mowed the lawn, and keep them out of my way a bit. This didn’t work as planned, as half the flying bees went to the location I’d moved the hive before I had moved it into the green part of the lawn. The other half seemed torn between following their sisters the wrong direction, and investigating the measuring cups. As a result there was a large cloud of bees about 10 feet long, going from the first moves location to the hive. I quickly mowed the lawn, still fully suited, and retreated. The bees hadn’t finished with the measuring cups, so I left those where they were.
I then decided to open the queenless hive, just to see what was going on with them. I was surprised to find a fair amount of honey capped in there. Drones were emerging on several of the frames, but no new eggs were visible. One of the drones had a mite on it, so I decided to shake the bees out onto the ground next to the hive in the hopes of shaking loose some of the mites. Most of the bees returned immediately to the hive, so I’m not sure how much good I did. The population is pretty small; if I hadn’t seen any mites (or deformed wings) I may have combined the hives. As it stands I’ll probably just wait a few days before I open them up again and collect all their honey. I’ll need to clean all of the frames off too, to stop the spread of disease to next years bees.