OUCH another whopper of a sting! It pales in comparison to the stinging frenzy of last August but the itching is pure torture. It stings, it itches, it is hot, it hurts to touch and my ankle is getting stiff. I just have to remind myself the bees are only trying to defend themselves and they have no idea I am trying to help. I react plain and simple. Getting stung over and over has not tempered my reactions. By tomorrow the redness and swelling will have ballooned up my leg (as if it hasn't already) and the itching will consume me. All this for the love of bees.
After news of a swarm on Friday that we lost we would have to go deep into the hives to check on the bottom dwellings. All in an effort to determine who had swarmed. I know what to look for but unless I have a marked queen that I am able to spot there is no telling for sure. It would be easy if I could find marked queens in The Turquoise Bee, Royal Ruckus and Drone Den. I usually can find them but as the season progresses and the population multiplies it gets harder, marked or unmarked. It is unlikely one them had swarmed but you never know. Mr. Abbott would be tricky. Last time I checked I could not find the Yellow Lady we placed in Mr. Abbott in May but a week later Paula spotted an unmarked queen. What happened is anyones guess but that was two weeks ago. If I were a betting girl I would bet on Crazy Comb and since her queen is unmarked there would be no telling for sure unless she didn't re-queen. Bees are complicated.
I called Colleen, she was at my house within two hours. It was 95 degrees out. I wasn't sure we would be able to get in all the hives because of the heat. I was unsure Colleen would hold up especially if the bees were agitated. Dang that girl deserves a full promotion to beekeeper. I could not have managed without her. No longer an apprentice, Colleen is our third beekeeper, maybe not ready for partnership but she getting there. I love her enthusiasm for the bees and her concern for their well being! She takes measures I don't to make sure a bee isn't sacrificed during our laboring and heavy lifting.
We decided to do the easy hives first, the small ones that we know were queen-right two weeks ago. Both Royal Ruckus and The Drone Den are in great shape. We did not spot a queen in either on of them but we did see great brood patterns and eggs. If a hive is going to swarm the queen will usually stop laying and slim down for the flight. It is unlikely either of these hives swarmed given the amount of eggs present. Both of them have one super that is completely combed out and packed with nectar! The second super box on both is empty but given how much nectar is in the first super box and how docile the bees were I am sure there is a good nectar flow on right now.
On to Mr. Abbott, the little trouble maker. The population in this hive remains very poor, it has been since the divide and the queen just doesn't seem to be laying much. Most of her brood is spotty with some areas of good cover but nothing to brag about. There isn't a lick of nectar coming in and nothing is combed out. But there was the Yellow Lady, our original marked queen! I don't know what Paula saw two weeks ago but I now doubt it was an unmarked queen. If it was she isn't there anymore.
We took on Crazy Comb next, all five boxes but we didn't get to the bottom box. We found lots of swarm cells and queen cups, little peanut like cells that hang off the frames. Some were sealed some were not. When hives are fixing to swarm or replace a queen they feed Royal Jelly to certain eggs to "make" a new queen. Usually they make several for good measure and let the queens battle it out in the end. Remember a hive only has one queen so if a new queen emerges in a queen-less hive and there are other queen cells with emerging queens the bees will kill the others. We probably shouldn't have been so quick to remove the cells especially since we didn't spot a queen, although there were so many that I am sure we missed some and there may be more in the bottom box. I would place bets on this being the hive that swarmed but the population seemed so robust. There was also a super full of nectar on Crazy Comb.
We tried to look inside The Turquoise Bee but her bees were really cranked and just after removing the supers and getting to the brood nest I got stung on the ankle and had to leave the bee yard. The bees were quite aggressive and buzzing all over. Colleen kept her cool and got the hive reassembled while I managed the stinger removal and getting some deodorant on the sting. Colleen swears by deodorant to temper the swelling and itching from the venom. I am not sure it does much for me but I went ahead and applied it. Bees will also get agitated and aggressive if they are queen-less so I should not be so quick to think it was Crazy Comb that fled. Obviously we have more work to do and in the end we many never know unless the hive that swarmed goes queen-less and we don't catch it which would be a real drag at this point in the season.
We plan to go back tomorrow and hopefully get a better look inside The Turquoise Bee and maybe re-inspect Crazy Comb to look for a queen. In the mean time I am nursing my sting and remain dumbfounded by the gravity of my reaction. My ankle has already swollen twice as much as when I took the photo on hour ago and I am stewing about all this to no end. Woe is me.