Despite my best efforts this spring to make successful and productive splits and nucs (read more about that here), I still found myself with 4 out of 12 hives Queenless come July. I do not claim to know it all when it comes to bees and beekeeping, and after talking to beekeepers with 30 and 40 years of experience under their belts, I’ve learned that there will always be new things to learn, and new curve-balls to field. While the beekeeper may provide a colony with a Queen or Queen-cells, the bees may yet choose not to employ said Queen. And as with any other form of farming, which is reliant on the whims and mercy of nature, weather can play a leading role in successful–or un-successful– Queen-establishment.
So I got on the phone and ordered 4 Queens from Kevin Fabian in Norridgewock, who has about 350 hives and sells mated Queens. I picked up the new Ladies last Sunday, they are Carniolans with a mix of Italian and Buckfast, which I hope will give my bees a mix of desirable traits from each breed. How gorgeous they are!
How strange that I should find beauty in this crawling, flying, stinging insect…but they are beautiful to me none the less. Every time I chance to find the Mumma on a frame I can’t help but get giddy just looking at her slender form.
I affixed the Queen-cages to a frame in the lower brood box simply by pressing it into the comb (screen-side facing out so that the workers may tend Her) and put the hive back together. The workers would eat through the marshmallow fluff that plugged the opening of the cage, and–so long as nothing goes wrong–She would be released and commence laying.
Yesterday–a week after installing the Queen-cages–I went back to check that all four Queens had been released and to ensure that eggs were finally being laid in these hives. It was pure joy to find new eggs! What a relief! And I saw the new Queens hard at work. Hooray!
It won’t be long now before the deep brood boxes are filled with larvae in all stages, and these hives will at last be at full-strength. What’s more–there’s still time for a good fall honey-crop before the colder temperatures drive the bees back inside the hive for the long Maine winter. But that’s another story!