Sunday, October 4, 2015

Beeladee: Brood Break or New Queen?

Week 1: The Worry!

I have been noticing that my bees were not finishing out or building new comb this entire season. I have been monitoring through the hive's observation window, but decided a full inspection was needed.

When I inspect, I take out several bars to the left, slide bars over, and inspect the frames as I put the bars back in place. I started with the 1st bar to the far right. I saw some capped honey, syrup and pollen. This was the pattern for several bars. The ratio of these differed, but the make-up was about the same. I did find 2 empty queen cells on one of the empty bars. After 11 bars, I knew something was wrong. All I found was empty wax. There was no brood!

I have only kept bees for 3 years, so my life experience is not as great as others. So far I had never had an inspection like this. I posted on several beekeeping social media groups. A few people mentioned a period called a brood break. I also thought that my old queen might have left, died, or been usurped by a yet unmated new queen. This might be the slump period between queens.

In the end, I decided not to buy a new queen. There weren't any available in the local websites. It was late in the season and a new queen might not be able to build a strong enough hive to make it through the winter anyway. If the hive failed, I would take what honey I could, freeze the wax bars that were intact, and seal the empty hive for the winter. The bars of full comb would make an inviting environment for a new package of bees or a swarm next spring!

Week 3: The Serendipity!

I went into the hive with thoughts of what I had seen last inspection. As I slid the bars over (three at a time) I noticed there were not any more bees than two weeks ago, maybe even less. I did notice that the bars became heavier as I worked across the hive. There were also lots of bees with pollen baskets full of yellow pollen.

I started at the far right as usual. The bees had not continued to build out the comb, but were filling it with nectar. There was even some capped honey at the top. The next bar had more nectar, pollen and capped honey. They continued to increase as I worked to the left!

Then I joyously found three bars full of capped worker brood and larvae! After the brood area, there were several bars with capped honey and uncapped nectar as well as lots of pollen.

Given the great laying pattern, I think I have a new queen! I'm so glad I didn't lose the hive. Now I'll wait to see if they can build up their numbers enough to make it through the winter!

Week 5: The Confirmation!

Today we had beautiful weather. Thought I'd give the hive another check. There were significantly more bees, many with pollen sacks loaded down with bright yellow and, in a few cases, bright orange pollen. One of the frames had spotty capped larva. I believe this was the last bar to hatch brood. The next few bars had uncapped larvae. I only saw one pupa, so I think the next cycle is just starting. There were several frames of uncapped nectar and capped honey, as well as pollen everywhere! I think it looks like the numbers will build up just in time for winter!

Pollen baskets full of pollen

Busy at the entrance

Larvae, capped brood, and pollen