Well, I was trying not to make this an educational blog, but I am going to have to lay some groundwork for this one. I ran into a bad situation at the hives today. I was out to check on my weak hive to see how it was doing. I opened it up and much to my dismay, it appeared that I had (say this in a dramatic voice to yourself) "Laying Workers". Some of you in the bee business know what a laying worker and what the prospects for the colony are. Those of you who do not know what a laying worker is, well prepare for some education.
When a queen dies or is failing, after two to maybe three weeks, the hive, in an attempt to boost population or just some kind of innate need to have a queen, produce what is called a laying worker. This is a worker bee that does not have the reproductive parts a queen does and therefore cannot mate. All of her offspring will be drones because they only require half the genetic information thus no need for fertilization. Drones are not a good thing to have in excess in a weak colony. They are consumers only, they do not gather or do colony chores. It then becomes a self inflating problem till the colony dies off. This is NOT what I want to happen to one of my only two colonies.
There are limited ways to combat this. You pretty much have to remove the laying workers and requeen the hive. My issue is that there was a queen in the hive and she was happy as a bug in a well hive, I guess. I am wondering if the laying worker's pheromones may have over powered the queen's.
So here is what I did. Who knows if this will work?
First, I caught the queen and put her in a box, all alone.
Second, I moved all the hive parts 50 yards away.
Third I shook, or blew ALL the bees off ALL of the hive bodies, comb, foundation, bottoms and tops. I removed EVERY bee from the hive.
Fourth, I removed a nice comb of brood from my healthy colony and placed it in the weak hive.
Fifth, I rebuilt the weak hive and let everything settle down for a minute.
Finally, I released the queen back into the hive.
I will go check on them next Friday.
The reason for moving the hive away and getting all the bees off is to try to get rid of the laying worker(s). Supposedly they are too heavy to fly so they just die there in the grass.
I placed some good brood in the weak colony to help bolster the population. The bees in there are approaching a month old since I last saw brood. Hopefully the infusion of new bees will get things going again.
Now the fun part of this whole episode was retrieving the brood from the active colony. As usual, the colony built bridge comb from the bottom box frames to the top box frames. They then filled this comb with honey. To get at the brood, I had to get in the bottom box. I have failed to mention that until I went into this hive to get the brood, I was wearing a polo shirt and khaki pants. No gloves, no smoker, no veil. Well as soon as I broke that honey comb, the bees got angry. I swear they were Africanized! They were chasing me around, digging in my hair basically trying to sting me repeatedly. At this point, I left their hive in two pieces and went and got my smoker and veil. I finally managed to subdue them enough to get what I needed from them and to teach them a lesson, I scraped off the bridge comb....again.
I will let you know next week how they are fairing. And hopefully I will have some screened bottom boards and some ventilation ekes made that I can share with you.
Till next time.