West 104th Street Garden

October 27, 2013

Queen Code 12012

Filed under: Bees,News — by west104garden @ 11:08 am

It’s not a zip code, it’s the number of queen bees living in my hive at various times between May and October 2013.  The first queen (1) went into the new hive in May; five weeks later, a second queen was spotted in the hive but I didn’t know where she came from (12). I gave this second one to a fellow beekeeper and a week later, my remaining queen was also gone (120). My last report was about the new queen purchased (1201). This new queen, hived in early September, laid eggs for only two weeks and then stopped for unknown reasons. The honeybee farm that provided her (Johnston’s Honey Bee Farm in upstate NY) graciously replaced her at no cost, and that new queen was active immediately. In early October, Tobias Heller (garden member and new beekeeper) and I discovered some very interesting and good news about the hive when we did a complete hive inspection with Barbara Heller’s help.

1) a queen was laying regularly as evidenced by larvae of different ages visible in the honeycomb
2) we did not see the new marked queen from Johnston’s (with a pink dot for identification) but saw evidence of queen activity (larvae)
3) there was a large amount of capped brood – meaning that eggs had been laid in these cells at least a week earlier
4) there was lots of honey to feed the bees over the winter
5) a good amount of pollen was stored in the hive; pollen is needed to ‘build bees’ so the bees were preparing food for the new population
6) the bee population was noticeably higher than before, another good sign the hive would overwinter successfully; we guesstimated about 15,000 bees – about 10,000 is a minimum winter population needed to keep the hive warm enough
7) there was an empty queen cell attached to one of the frames in the middle hive box, indicating that the hive had raised their own queen from one of the worker larvae and that she had successfully emerged from the cell
8) we DID find another queen (12012), just by her very large size, that was most likely the one produced by the hive and that emerged from the queen cell; there is some chance she was fertilized on a nuptial flight in the neighborhood but we don’t know.
9) we have repeatedly found no diseases or parasites of any kind in the hive although other beekeepers on the upper west side have had such problems.

We hope the hive continues to thrive for the remainder of the fall and through the winter. Minimal inspection will be done from now until March or April and that only to see if the bees need additional food and are healthy

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September 17, 2013

Mystery Surrounding the New Queen Bee 

Filed under: Bees,News — by west104garden @ 8:12 am
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I wrote earlier that I hived a new queen bee on August 7 and released her a few days later, after the hive and she got acquainted. She took a little time to settle in but by August 23 she appeared to be laying eggs, which was confirmed five days later. There was a good age (size) range of larvae in the brood cells which means the queen was laying regularly. A large number of brood cells were already capped which happens about a week after the eggs are laid. It was a good start for the new queen and improves chances that the hive will be large enough to survive the winter. While the hive was queenless for about 6 weeks, the bees produced lots of honey in honey cells as well as in what had been brood cells.

I returned to check the hive on Wednesday, September 11. It was the first time that Tobias Heller (8 yrs old) – a garden member with his mother Barbara – handled the bees and frames. He now has his own bee jacket with veiled hood, and is a natural. We weren’t surprised since he’s been researching bees, listening closely to my explanations for months and explaining a lot about the hive and bees to garden members who came around during hive inspections. Even when the bees were climbing around on his gloved hands, he was calm and collected.

We checked 2 of the 3 hive boxes, and discovered that the first brood from the new queen had ‘hatched’, that there is still capped brood that will produce more bees, but that there were no larvae of any age. That means the queen stopped laying at least a week ago, and maybe longer. We don’t know why, and we’re not sure if she is still in the hive. We tried to think like a bee and thought maybe she was not laying because she was not happy with the existing honeycomb. So we added a new 4th box of frames, and sprinkled some pollen in to encourage the bees to come up and pull out the embossed wax to make honeycomb cells for eggs. We’ll return next week to see what’s happened, with hopes that our guess was right and that the bees are working the wax and the queen is laying again.

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