We went round to Fiona’s apiary on Friday to go through her hives. She had re-Queened her colonies that had Drone-laying Queens and now we saw eggs and brood indicating that the issue had resolved. We saw the Queen too as she had been marked. The bees were still a bit tetchy though despite the presence of Queens. Fiona then came over to look at our hives.
The new hive that contained the nucleus was a sorry affair. There were lots of dead bees which we determined to be starving because there were insufficient bees to bring pollen home and they hadn’t any food reserves in the comb. They’d worn the capping on the brood due to walking about. This colony needed more bees if it was to survive.
The other hive still had lots of Drone comb and eggs. We’d seen multiple eggs previously and deduced this to be the result of a laying worker. However, Fiona spotted a Queen. We quickly marked her blue (blue for this year) and then she flew off. We found out that it is possible to have a Drone laying Queen and laying worker at the same time because if the Queen is failing (which this one is) the workers can start laying, but this strategy won’t work because they can’t raise a new Queen from laying worker eggs, only more Drones. The colony is doomed unless it is re-Queened.
So, the next step was to unite the colonies after first finding the failing Queen and dispatching her. In the meantime, Fiona advised that we needed to shake off the bees into the grass, cut out all the Drone cells and put the these frames to one side so the bees could recover the honey and take it back home. The combining operation would happen that evening after all the bees had returned. Later that evening, we opened up the hive and easily spotted the Queen as she was marked. She was quickly despatched.
We put a sheet of newspaper on top of the nucleus hive and scattered icing sugar and poked some small holes through the paper. Then we stacked the other hive on top.
The bees in the top box will then eat through the paper. The icing sugar drops onto the bees below and then they will groom one another and take on the pheromones of the Queen in the bottom box. Thus, they will recognise her and not kill her off. We have to wait 10 days now before we open up again and assess the state of play.