While in New Hampshire, I finally finished reading A Book of Bees, which gave me both inspiration to keep ploughing ahead with this blog and some advice about how to unite the new bees with the existing colony in the Twain hive.
Apparently, book learning is not what it is cracked up to be (yet again), because Larry got really worried when I told him what I intended to do with the bees he entrusted to my care yesterday. I was going to place them at the bottom of Twain, with some newspaper for the girls to chew through to delay contact and get them used to each other before the fact. Larry said it was not a great idea to put new bees below old. He even called me at home to reiterate this point! Therefore, I set the hive up the way you see it at left.
I placed the new nuc colony (the white box) above the old brood area, separated by a double screen board. The latter will allow the new queen's pheromone's to waft down on her new subjects, without allowing them to actually come up and chew on her or her daughters. Larry seemed unhappy with the double screen board idea, but I did not explore this with him.
Putting the new nuc there left me with a bit of a problem: what to do with the two medium boxes full of honey and comb and MORE bees from the old Twain crew? I'm terrified of wax moths (they turned up once already) and have no safe place to store it, even besides the problem with removing the bees. Therefore, I left an upper entrance/exit but placed two reversed bee escapes between the nuc and the supers. If this all seems too complicated, well it is, but it is what I did.
Finally, the part I have been avoiding. Before all this rearranging and stacking and screening and so on, I had to go through Twain to find Abigail. Her reign was so short, but I had to end it. I found her near the bottom, after looking through 20 frames (of course): she was a completely black queen, it's hard to believe her mother was Italian! It took me three tries to grab her, and when I finally had her in my fingers, I could not bear to squish her. My other hand was occupied with holding a frame, so I set her down in a nearby planter, intending to get back to the sad task. But a few seconds later I could no longer find her!
She had scurried off into a crack or under a leaf or maybe even (shudder) somehow back into a hive box! So much for a "known quantity!" And also so much for kindness: in the best scenario here (for the majority of the bees, that is, not Abigail herself), she will starve or die of thirst, unable to care for herself in a strange place. I did not live up to my responsibility with my over-nice ideas of how to dispatch a failed queen.
I've looked for her three times in the past 24 hours, feeling like an angel of death and a would-be ender of pain. No luck, not for either of us.
But each visit has also meant seeing Twain gain activity, energy and life. I think Larry and David gave me extra bees, folks! I am not kidding: I think I have almost enough to winter over in that box. It kind of explains why Larry kept encouraging me to get going on uniting the box, and was so specific on how to do it. There probably is not much room in there.
I plan on letting the girls share pheromones until Thursday, then let them get together.