Queen/Mating Nucs

As part of Ryan’s queen-rearing project, he created these “mating nucs,” which, in effect, are little queen nurseries (Ryan jokingly calls them brothels because they’re purpose is to house the queen until she’s mated). He took a deep hive body box and split it into four sections using clear plexiglass. He takes a viable, unhatched queen cell out of his queen-rearing box and puts her in with one frame of honey and one frame full of brood (eggs, larva, and pupa), so each box contains four nucs-in-the-making. Each section has it’s own entrance (see holes in front) so that when the queen emerges she can come out and do her mating flight.



Preparing for the Honey Harvest

Ryan putting together all of our new honey supers. He’s preparing for the harvest, and getting some hive bodies for the new nucs that he’s creating.

We are Langstroth beekeepers, which means we use the stackable box hives as opposed to top-bar hives, and instead of using the shallow honey supers we use regular deep-hive bodies for the honey supers as well as the brood boxes. We didn’t do this for any¬† particular reason, just a matter of choice. There’s only one disadvantage to using deep-hive bodies for our supers: our extractor only fits three deep frames, whereas if we used the shallow supers it would take six at a time. It just makes the harvest take a little longer.

We’re eager to rob our girls!

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Swarm, Catch, Scratch

Wednesday was an interesting day for beekeeping.

At about 2:15, Ryan emails me to let me know that his queen-rearing experiment has succeeded. He opened the box and found that he had mis-timed the extraction of the queen cells by a day. Some had hatched, which meant there were multiple queens in the box. In all he counted about 16 broken cells, which means that about 50 percent of what he grafted were reared successfully. Now, where the queens went, we have no idea. They may have slowly battled it out until the mightiest took reign. It’s a bit sad to think that we missed out on so many healthy queens, but at least we know that we don’t have to go out and buy our queens elsewhere.

He did find one queen crawling around the box and deposited her into one of our queenless colonies. She immediately began fluttering her wings to spread her pheromone throughout the new hive. Amazing.

Then at 3:15 Ryan emailed again and said that we’d had our first swarm from a split that he had created a couple of weeks ago. He said he and Charlotte watched as the cloud swirled and buzzed and landed on our neighbor’s basketball post. When I got home they were still there (see photos below), thankfully, and I helped Ryan get a box and balance it above the swarm. True to form, they were so docile he worked them in shorts and a t-shirt with no problems. Then he smoked them from the bottom, and up, up, up they went into the box. Shazam! A new colony.

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Ryan decides to check the hive that swarmed to see what’s up. Again, he’s out there in his shorts and T-shirt looking in the box and then he hears this scratching noise on the frame he’s looking at. He brings the frame over and asks me if I hear it. Sure enough, we look closely and there’s the new queen emerging from her supersedure cell. I guess the old queen knew it was time to go, so she swarmed with half the colony.

The beauty of it all is that we got this video of the queen emerging from her cell. (Sorry for the slightly fuzzy zoom moment.) Enjoy!