On June 15, my neighbor Lili and I drove to Harahan, La to meet my favorite beekeeper, Jeff (who sold me my last hive). Jeff is a bee relocater who specializes in removing honey bees from people’s homes and selling the bees to beekeepers like me. This is Lili’s first hive and my second.
When we met Jeff, he had already been through an experience trying to make sure that both the hives he was giving us had queens. Apparently, he had lost the queen that was ruling over my bees and had to re-queen them with Queen LaDonna spur of the moment. This was about 9:30pm. Beekeeping in the dark must be interesting.
When bees are introduced to a new queen, they either love her or they hate her. When they meet her, they “ball” her, which means they surround her with hundreds of bees and check her out. In turn, she sprays a whole bunch of her intoxicating pheromones to woo the ladies. If they fall for it, she becomes the new queen, if not, they rip her to smithereens.
It will be important for me to identify the queen in one of my early inspections so that I know they didn’t kill her. If I can not see her, I at least need to keep an eye on the brood because if she is laying eggs then I will know that she is alive and well, however, if she was killed, the bees might try and make queen cells to hatch a new queen on their own. The problem with bees that do not have a queen is they kind of lack the will to live and don’t really have much motivation.
On our ride back to New Orleans Lili’s hive, Latisha, was buzzing away and we had one escapee in the cab with us that I had to let out; but we didn’t panic (really). When we transport the hives, Jeff staples the bottom board to the a deep and the lid is on top. So it is just one box and a bunch of bees. The hive opening at the bottom (what I often call the “stoop”) is sealed with a perforated sheet of thin metal that is bent into 90 degrees. The holes allow the bees to breath, but not get out. When we got home, I let the bees relax for an hour or so and then took off this metal barrier so they could fly freely in the morning.
LaDonna inspection #1: June 16, 2010: I woke up very early to check on LaDonna. It is a good idea to check that all the frames are pushed to the center and there are no weird spaces that the bees will fill in with the burr comb (random comb that is not in the frames and thus makes it difficult to remove the frames when you need to).
I did not spot Queen LaDonna on this inspection, but the bees seemed calm and I did not see any reason to assume that she was not in there. I did see a good bit of capped brood and some newly laid larvae (although I will have to look again this weekend for new larvae to prove that the queen is still around). Most of the frames had capped honey at the top and capped brood at the bottom. I guess when the bees have limited space, that is how they organize the hive. LaDonna was a nucleus hive before I got her, which means that she was already established (probably in a building) and those bees were transferred into a smaller six frame hive. Jeff told me that I may notice some rubber bands holding the wax to the frames on this hive. This is because when he removed the hive from the inside of the walls of the building, he carefully cut the comb out as well and gave it back to them in empty frames. These frames with the transferred comb may be less sturdy compared to the new frames I bought with foundation in the middle. The foundation is secured to all four sides of the frame which makes it less likely to bend or fall especially when it gets heavy with honey. Jeff just told me to make sure the comb is always hanging downward because it is strongest in that position.
This afternoon, June 17, I did witness what looked like an orientation flight. This means that some of the brood have hatched and they are making their first practice flight around the hive. It looks like a sudden cloud of bees in front of the hive just sort of hovering. The first time this happened to my other hive, I thought they were swarming, but my panic subsided as I talked to Jeff and he explained their actions.
I am glad that LaDonna’s population is growing, because right now they seem so much smaller compared to Delilah. There are very few bees on the stoop, and only a handful flying in an out at any given time. I think they will progress just fine, but compared to Delilah, LaDonna seems a bit barren.