Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Help is on the way

Perhaps it was the implicitly panicky tone, maybe it was the cluelessness of the questions asked (they're pasted in below) but a beekeeper who knows lots more has offered to come to the rescue in person. Mary Ellen is in her third year, but almost more importantly, she is not very far away and is OK with the idea of climbing up to the roof. We have plans for first thing tomorrow. Oh thank you, Mary Ellen! And thanks to the other beekeepers, too, in case my gratitude has not reached you yet.

We reviewed what had been done so far:
  1. one unused hive body was retrieved from the basement;
  2. three frames of comb and some bees were taken from Colony 2;
  3. the new queen was removed from danger in Colony 1; and
  4. all the above were placed together in a new "nuc" or nuclear colony.

The queen was still in her corked cage (meaning she could not get free), and the nuc was placed on top of a barrier sitting on top of sickly Colony 1. A "double screen board" is what people who know recommend for this (a piece of plywood with a hole in the middle, covered on either side with metal screen which bees can't chew through – they can see and smell each other, but they cannot hurt each other). I used two queen excluders with some cardboard because it would take too long to get or make a double screen board.

Mary Ellen said several comforting things at this point:
  1. The situation is stable – in other words, this nuclear option was not a bad thing.
  2. The new queen should be freed in her new home in order to get the ball rolling – so I should remove the cork and let her new workers free her (uncorking now complete).
  3. Because Colony 1 is relatively new, the "laying worker" situation could be reversible, and the "nuc" on top might actually be unite-able with the sad girls on the bottom; and
  4. Mary Ellen is good at spotting queens, so she can spend time with me to look at Colony 1, see if there is a queen still in there, analyze the brood; and otherwise settle the current question about what is going on.

Maybe we can mark the queens of Colonies 1 and 2 if we can find them. I hope she is not just horrified at all this incompetence.

There will be pictures of all this eventually, but in the scramble to try to work this out, the camera would not have helped these clumsy hands.

As promised, below here's the plea that was posted to the beekeepers' bulletin board.

From: "phang"
Date: Tue May 3, 2005 1:21 pm
Subject: Are These Emergency Queen Cells?

With apologies to those of you who have been pestered already, I'd like to ask for some guidance or confirmation.

I have a struggling colony whose queen may have been injured during installation of a package three weeks ago. When I checked the weak colony on Sunday, what little comb there was had misshapen cells all over it, and not much more than a week previous.

Could anyone take a look at the pictures taken of this at and tell me:
  1. are these emergency queen cells, or something else?
  2. I tried to find the original queen to remove and replace her and could not. Is she dead already?
  3. Yesterday a new queen was purchased and this AM, still in a corked cage, she was placed in the hive. Is she safe? Should I remove her?

Thank you, and please please someone else ask some questions so I can ask some more without being the only pest!

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