What is it with our bees?

Why do our bees never do what they are supposed to do? I checked in on them today as it was such nice weather. 23ºC, sunny and with just a very light puff of a wind. Having performed an artificial swarm on them last week I wanted to check several things.

Bees in the Hive

Bees in the Hive

Hive 1

This is the hive that contained the brood portion of the artificial swarm. It had most of the brood, most of the nurse bees, very few flying bees and most of the stores but no queen. I therefore wanted to check that their food stores were sufficient to keep them going until flying bees were on the scene and foraging. More importantly I wanted to check that they had realised the queen had swarmed and had therefore built some queen cells. Guess what? They hadn’t!

Usually when the queen is absent the bees should be a little more agitated. They weren’t, they were lovely and calm. Usually when the queen is absent they should build emergency queen cells so as to replace her. They hadn’t done so and today was three days since I had split them. That means they had been queenless for three days and therefore no new eggs had been laid for those three days. The trouble is they need an egg in order to produce an emergency queen cell so it looks as though they may have missed their opportunity. I couldn’t see any eggs in there but I guess there is still chance that there are one or two, and still chance that they have noticed the predicament of their queenless state. I’ll have to check again in a few days time to see if they have built some queen cells. If not, my only course of action will have to be to donate some eggs from the other hive to them.

Hive 3

Meanwhile, hive three that contained the ‘swarmed’ half of the split composed of all the flying bees and the queen was also nice and calm. There weren’t many bees in here as most of them would have been out flying in such weather. That should have made it easy to spot the queen. The colony was only on a couple of frames as well which should have made it easier still. However, I looked and looked but couldn’t see her. There were eggs in the cells though and new eggs since the split too so hopefully I was just being blind. If she has disappeared somewhere as well then we really are in trouble!

Whay can’t they just do what they are supposed to do for once!!

4 Responses

  1. Mum says:

    Oh ,I wonder how many times a parent has said that now here you are saying it about the bees….

  2. Emily says:

    Did you decide to get in early and do the artificial swarm before queen cells were produced in case you missed them during inspections? It seems like both a less-risky and a riskier way of doing things since as you say it relies on the queenelss bees making queen cells. Those naughty bees are keeping you on your toes!

    • Alan Cole says:

      I guess so, although there were a few practice queen cups so I thought they were about to swarm. With the weather the way it was they seem to be able to swarm in a few days somehow so we have to get in there quick if we don’t want to lose them!

      I’ll take another look in a day or two to see what they are up to.


  3. Alan Cole says:

    Just a quick update.

    Hive 1 has finally noticed that it didn’t have a queen and has built some queen cells. Now to wait for her to hatch, mate and start laying. Finger Crossed.

    Hive 3 however is up to no god. As feared, the queen seems to have flown off with half the colony despite the fact that there were no queen cells and no signs of swarming. Somehow, the artificial swarm which is supposed to prevent swarming has has the opposite effect. They weren’t thinking of swarming beforehand but performing the artificial swarm seems to have encouraged them to swarm and off she went with half the bees. The problem is she left behind her no queen cells and last time I looked there wasn’t any new queen cells being built. I’ve now given them a frame with a queen cell from Hive 1. So they are in the same situation as Hive 1 now. They have a sealed Queen Cell and we are waiting for her to hatch, mate and start laying.


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Alan Cole

Alan is a Freelance Website Designer, Sports & Exercise Science Lab Technician and full time Dad & husband with far too many hobbies: Triathlete, Swimming, Cycling, Running, MTBing, Surfing, Windsurfing, SUPing, Gardening, Photography.... The list goes on.

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