Kingdom without a Queen

Hive #10
Wet, damp Hive #10

The weather in northern Minnesota continues to be, at best, cooler and wetter than normal. High winds have also accompanied the cold, wet weather. This has made for sporadic conditions for the bees to venture out from their homes to do their thing. It is not to say they have had zero opportunities; upon opening any of the hives – even ones that are perceived to be in a weakened state – the top bars of the frames are dusted with the bright yellow of dandelion pollen. The frames of nectar are stacking up, too, even with sporadic abilities to reach the nectar in the field.

Hive #10

Hive #10 has had a bit of a storied history. Started last with a package of bees originating from Chico, California, hive #10 had its first queen issue a month after installing the package. With no queen, a worker picked up the call to duty and started to lay eggs. That would be all well and good if workers could just take up the roll of a fertile queen and produce workers; instead, when a worker lays eggs, you will always get drones. Those lazy bugs that just take up space and look out of place with their enormous eyes.

A queen was ordered from Kentucky to replace the missing queen from California. The requeen on hive #10 went well, but we never did get any honey from it last season.

Hive #10 made it through winter and looked be a good candidate for being the source-hive for one or more splits (see my previous post on splits). Unknowingly, and being very new to the world of splits, the source-queen most likely made it into the new hive. This would explain why I had issues "requeening" – the new hive did not need a new queen because it had the original, older queen. On the note of having issues requeen – the new, Russian queen, was freed from her cage (this time). So, what happens with a hive with two queens? It will be a like cage fight; they will fight to the death and the stronger of the two will survive.

This leaves me with a currently strong hive in limbo because of a lack of a queen. There were numerous empty, partially constructed queen cells, but nothing that would suggest a the kingdom was about to throw off a new queen. Without a queen laying female eggs, and after sufficient time for all the existing female eggs to have gone from egg to larva to pupa to adult – there are no viable eggs to be turned into a queen. I did a bit of Internet searching and found several options for purchasing queens, but eventually wandered back to Kelley Bees (out of Kentucky). This is the same outfit that I have been getting my queens from for a while now; particularly this season.

Crow visiting the Ahrens Yard
Crow visiting the Ahrens Yard

In addition to all the queen drama, the apiary at the Ahrens is set to expand by two more hives. My beekeeping apprentice, Beth, is getting setup with her own hive. I am setting her up with a new Russian queen and several frames from a strong hive of mine. The other hive is getting bees from our neighbors to the north in Thunder Bay, Ontario. I am heading up there with a group from the Cook County (North Shore) Hobby Beekeepers on June 4, 2011. There has been considerable effort on the part of Thunder Bay Beekeepers’ Association to keep their area free of mites. I hope to write more about their efforts and my adventure north of the border in another post.

I also received word from the land owners of the Ahrens yard that a neighboring farm had beef cattle and several sheep wander through the field in front of the hives; lets hope that the trail camera caught the beasts moseying along and perhaps the ensuing, Benny Hill-like persuit.