I could also title this post ‘How To Snatch Disaster From The Jaws Of Success!’
Three days after re-queening I went to check the queens had been released from their cages. I first looked at my No1 hive which had the golden Italian bees. I carefully lifted the lid and eased out the top bar the cage was wired to. I shook of the bees clinging to the cage and bar then snipped the wire. I pulled off the cage and replaced the bar with out upsetting the bees at all. The cage was empty so the queen had been released. I now had to wait another seven days before I could check if she had been accepted by the hive and laying.
Now for hive No2, I carefully went through the same process. This time however there was something still in the cage. The queen had several attendants in the cage with her so I was not too worried. I walked back up to my workshop and shook out the dead bee just to check. To my horror the body had a blue spot on its back it was the queen! As she was still in the cage and the attendants had gone I assumed she must have died of natural causes. If she had been attacked I would have expected some of the attendants to be dead in the cage as well.
Oh well I thought, I still have the Italian queen in my hive No3. I could make up a follower board (divider) with a large cut out, cover it with newspaper then combine the nucleus in hive 3 with hive 2. The bees would slowly eat through the newspaper and by the time they have got through the nuc with the queen would have the same smell as the main hive. The queen would (should) be accepted and I’m back in business. Bickerstaffs would not have any more Apis Mellifera Mellifera (Apis MM) queens until spring next year so I would wait until then to re-queen hive 2 with an Apis M M queen bee. Good plan or so I thought!
I made up the newspaper follower board then back to hive 2. I removed the wooden follower replaced it with the paper one. I then went to hive three to remove the three combs and queen. When I lifted the lid I noticed a couple of wasps sitting as bold as you like on the top bars. I brushed them away and lifted the first comb, which had contained the capped stores. It was totally empty with very few bees on it. Dead bees lay on the floor of the hive. I checked the other combs and was greeted by devastation. Nearly all the bees were dead the combs empty. I checked carefully and could not find the queen. She must have been killed as well. I noticed some dead wasps amongst the pile of bodies so I can only assume they had discovered the little nuc and robbed it out ba@@@rds!
I put the three combs with the remaining few bees into hive 2 and closed up hive 3. I now had a queen-less hive and no spare queen. I felt rather despondent to say the least, why did I interfere with them in the first place damn it!
It was the end of August and I had a queen-less hive. What to do? I could just leave them in the hope they might raise an emergency queen but the weather was rubbish and the forecast not much better. By the time the new queen had hatched there might not be many drones about and with bad weather the chance of a successful mating flight would be slim.
The only chance I had of saving the hive was to find another queen. I tried several suppliers and no one had any available. I suddenly remembered Robert Bell of Heatherbell Honey. I had brought some Top Bar hive instructional DVDs from him on ebay a while ago. He advertises queens and bee nucs on his website www.cornwallhoney.com I emailed him and to my relief he had some queens still available.
I ordered a new queen on the Friday and she arrived first thing Tuesday, thank you Mr Bell.
Unfortunately the day was not ideal, in the morning it rained. I waited until the afternoon when the rain stopped. It was still cloudy and not very warm but I had the get the queen into the hive. As they had been queen-less for well over a week now I needed to check for emergency queen cells. The bees will not accept a new queen if they are in the process of raising their own so I had to check before putting the new queen in the hive and remove any I found.
I took a deep breath, gave them a couple puffs of smoke and in I went. Boy were those girls MAD! They were all around me. Luckily I found the queen cells on the third comb. I had to walk away at that point as they were really going for me by then. I left them for a while to calm down a little then returned. I lifted the comb with the queen cells and carefully cut them out. I popped the cells into a jam jar with a few clinging bees. The rest were well and truly mad at me again! Suddenly a couple found a way into my veil, they had got in through a small gap where the zipper ends. You have not lived until you have a couple of bees buzzing INSIDE YOUR VEIL! Still on the bright side they tend to stop buzzing once they have stung you
I put the remainder of the comb back and walked away again. I wired the queen cage to a new top bar and went back after they had calmed down. This time I quietly put the bar in, closed them up and left.
Yesterday afternoon I gently removed the cage. It was empty so hopefully the queen is alive. I will check for brood in about seven or so days time. Fingers crossed.
I checked hive 1 at the same time and to my relief saw the queen walking across a comb as though she owned the place
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