Thursday, October 18, 2012

Some Girls Have all the Moxie

I am coming down from my relief about Colleen's Royal Ruckus, disappointed yes, but the relief that I don't have AFB is just tremendous! Finally I can focus enough to get our winterizing plan mobilized.

At the last Minnesota Hobby Beekeeper's meeting a beekeeper asked for donations to a research project. He was looking for weak hives, less than five frames of bees that probably wouldn't overwinter. I thought of Mr. Abbott, our little divide from The Turquoise Bee.  Although they seemed to be making some momentum they would fit his criteria. They didn't have any honey and probably wouldn't make it through the winter. I gave the beekeeper a call, offering the bees but said I needed one more week to make a final check on them. I was actually worried they wouldn't make it through the week and didn't want him to get his hopes up. I just can't wrap my mind around what these girls are working off.

Paula and I headed down to the bee yard early with a brilliant sky blue pink on the horizon and barely a chill in the air. We had more mouse guards and winter covers for the hives. I was curious about what we would find. Would more hives have absconded? Would Crazy Comb be dying off without her queen? Would The Turquoise Bee behave so we could inspect her? Would we find a great deal more honey in Drone Den from robbing? If was full of questions.

We moved all of our gear out of the car and down to the bee yard. Paula couldn't get the smoker light so we just move ahead without smoke.  First things first, get the mouse guards in place while there wasn't a bee stirring. The hammering would surely rile the bees and we couldn't wear gloves while getting the nails in place. It would be easier to get them in now before any activity from the bees. We did a cursory inspection in Katrina's Drone Den. I do think these girls may have robbed Royal Ruckus. They have great honey stores, more than I remember and seem strong. Note to self, we should probably keep better records of our frame inventories in each hive. We would have been wise to do a powdered sugar test for mites. Doing so would tell us our mite load which would be a good predictor of surviving through the winter. After the vanishing act of Royal Ruckus I am starting to rethink our mite management. I am not contemplating treating but knowing mite loads could help us make other decisions about how we manage wintering and maybe even help us figure out how many new packages to order. Food for thought. We fitted Drone Den for her cover, made a cut out for the bees and placed the moisture board in place. One hive tucked in for winter.

Next we looked through Mr. Abbott and found a robust group of bees. true grit and spirit to boot. These girls have some moxie to be sure! I started wondering about their genetics. The more populated they got the more they acted like The Turquoise Bee. I wondered if we could figure out their lineage. Brood and bees moved from Turquoise but a new Queen would reset the genetic make up in any hive but we had two queens running amok in Mr. Abbott for at least a month. Did the unmarked queen come from Turquoise Brood?  I told Paula I was rethinking the donation. But without any honey it didn't make since to keep them.

I was anxious to see how Crazy Comb was doing without their queen. When we open up the hive it was clear the population was declining and they had a fair amount of honey. Paula suggested we move frames of honey over to Mr. Abbott and try to keep her going. I agreed it was a great idea. We had two boxes to go through and could pick out the heaviest frames to move. As we started sorting I noticed we had queen cup after queen cup. Holy mother of Apis these girls are fixing to re-queen themselves. We took our time and removed every single queen cup and agreed, we would need to come back next week to check on them. After taking out the queen it would be something if they re-queened. I don't know if a queen could actually take a mating flight at this time of year but I didn't want to risk it. We painstakingly removed every queen cell we saw. Paula had some news paper in the car so instead of brushing the bees off the frames of honey we wanted to move we placed newspaper between the old and new box. By the time the bees ate through the newspaper they would be attracted to their new queen and wouldn't have a brawl on our hands. It was a lot easier than brushing bees even though there weren't that many bees. As we worked I noticed that the bees from Mr. Abbott seemed riled up and I reiterated my concern about their lineage. We put her winter cover on and moisture board in place. Two hives tucked in for winter. I'd have to call David, the beekeeper hoping to get some bees from me and tell him no go.

Finally we decided we had to check The Turquoise Bee, it was now or never. We have not dealt with those renegade girls in months. We had to get a better idea of what was going on in that hive and hopefully extract the queen. As always they were agitated beyond measure. There was a reasonable amount of honey and a fair amount of brood. I immediately caught sight of an unmarked queen. When had Snow White been replaced? How long had this queen been at it? I'd have to go back in our records and see when we last saw her. I took her out, swiftly! These girls have to go, no matter what. I was delighted with myself for locating her and doing the deed with such precision. That being said there is a tun of brood and probably some eggs in the hive leaving the girls plenty to work with to re-queen themselves. We will have to watch them like a hawk for the next three weeks and remove any attempts they make.

Our work is hardly done. We will have to return weekly for the next three weeks or so making sure Crazy Comb and Turquoise Bee meet their demise and then pull the boxes and store the frames. Anything with honey, well we might be begging for some walk in freezer space to store it. Nothing would be better than a few frames of frozen honey to slip into an over wintered hive in the spring. We loaded Paula's minivan up, throwing in our workbench and headed for coffee. I was was pleased with myself and my queen spotting skills and had to brag a bit on the way home.

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