Queens a Plenty (need help!)

April 22, 2009

Bad news on the bee front. Truth is I could use some advice.

First, though, the story to this point: as previously blogged, my two hives died overwinter, so I ordered two new colonies through the Whidbees (Whidbey Island Beekeepers). Interested in doing a little comparison, I got one Italian queen and one Carniolan.

I went up a couple weeks ago Sunday (April 5th) to pick them up. This was something of an adventure, as I walked on to the ferry to Whidbey Island, hopped off, met David of the Whidbees to get my bees and walked back on, a colony of bees under either arm. The looks I got. You’d think they’d never seen anyone walking around with 10,000 bees under his arms before!

David mentioned to things that might be helpful to those who want to offer me advice:

  • He said he’d had much better luck in terms of productivity with the Carniolans in past years than the Italians.
  • He said the queens had only been with the hives for 24 hours, so he recommended I wait to set the marshmallow / free her.

As soon as I got home that day, I hived the bees and set the queens, still caged and corked, in their hives.

When I went in later that week (Thursday, April 9th) and released the queens. I didn’t bother with the marshmallow, just turned the queens loose in the hives. I did notice a few strange things in the process:

  • The Italian hive seemed much smaller than the Carniolan hive. The Italians were all clustered to one side of the hive and not that thickly. The Carniolan hive seemed to fill the box. (See the pictures below. That’s the Italian on the left, Carniolan on the right).
  • The Italian hive barely touched their sugary syrup, whereas the Carniolan hive devoured a good half gallon.
  • Despite the fact that I say “Carniolan hive” and “Italian hive”, all the bees appeared Carniolan to me, with just a few Italians mixed in in both hives. I’m assuming that until the queen starts laying, this is just who was scooped up to start the colony?
IMG_8469 IMG_8472

Now the grim story starts today, a couple weeks later (April 21st). I went in to check to make sure that the queens were laying well, and, while the Carniolan hive looked just fine, with a good strong laying pattern, the Italian hive had virtually no brood at all except for four queen cells:


So, what do I do? Simply killing off the queen cells won’t help, because the hive seems to be without a healthy laying queen to begin with. But how did the queen cells get there in the first place if they don’t have a laying queen? Should I bring some brood over from the Carniolan hive?


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