Saturday, May 21, 2011

Queen for Today

At 9am I was in German Village to pick up my new Ohio queen from beekeeper and queen grafter Nina. Nina is creating genetic lines of Ohio queens from colonies that have strongly survived our Ohio winters. The idea here is that these queens will produce offspring that will also survive Ohio winters. I wish I had taken a picture of the queen cages Nina uses which are a plastic mesh. This photograph is of cages that held two of my original Georgia queens.

On my way back to Worthington I called John, the Plain City beekeeper who helped me yesterday. He met me at my house, we fired up the smoker and headed to the hives to install the new queen in Hive #2.

We took yet another look at the frames to try to find the original queen. While we did not find her (again), we did find new eggs. Some of the eggs were two to a cell, indicating an egg-laying worker. The problem is, this worker is a pretender to the throne. Her eggs are not fertile and nothing good can come of them. A hasty phone consultation with yet another highly experienced beekeeper, Dana, brought the new game plan.

This is where it gets complicated. Dana advised us to take all the Hive #2 frames with brood, including the nurse bees, and switch them with the brood and bee laden frames my happiest hive, #1. It was imperative that the queen from Hive #1 remain there, so we had to find her. There were plenty of new eggs so we knew she was there, but where? Oddly, we found her on a frame in the upper hive body. We made the presto/change-o frame swap and cradled the new queen in her cage between two frames in Hive #2. And then we buttoned up the hives.

The idea here is that the nurse bees from Hive #1 now residing in Hive #2 and all the newly emerging bees will happily accept the new queen. The bees formerly from Hive #2 now in Hive #1 will happily accept the Hive #1 queen. The foraging bees returning to the hives will go back to the real estate from whence they came. The worker bee that had been pretending to be a queen in Hive #2 will be killed by the real queen in Hive #1. We simple beekeepers could never figure out which worker is the pretend queen, but the pretender can't fool the true royal.

Are you following this? If so, you can explain it all to me later. I just had a mental picture of a diagram of a complicated football play.

This is what I know for sure. It was a beautiful, sunny afternoon. My bees were zooming all around all three hives with lots of coming and going. In three or four days I will check to make sure the new Ohio queen has been released from her cage. Several beekeepers who know way more about all of this than I do assure me that I will now have stronger, healthier colonies.

From their lips to God's ears.

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