A friend of mine and I went out yesterday to have a look at my hive and to put an additional frame in for the bees to work on. After the last hive visit I thought it would be a fairly routine visit and we’d be in and out without any issues. The bees were doing great last week, the Queen was present, they had plenty of stores and they even had two and a half frames to work on. But when we opened up the hive I was shocked to see that all the frames were filled up and that I couldn’t find the Queen. On top of that, I found about a dozen Queen cups on the bottoms of the frames and some of them were filled with larva.
Circled: Either Emergency cells or Supercedure cells built into the side of one of the frames
Queen cups are enlarged cells that are usually built at the bottom of the frames. They are special ‘rooms’ in which new Queen bees are raised and only occur for two main reasons: the current Queen is dead or the bees have decided to swarm – that means that part of the colony want to move out and leave the hive. This could be due to a number of reasons but generally it’s because the hive is getting too small or hot or the current Queen is getting on in age and the bees want to split to ensure the continuity of the colony. I was expecting this to happen next year but I’m absolutely shocked that it’s happening so soon after I got my first colony.
To be honest, I’m not completely sure what the case is with my hive. I went out again today to look for the Queen and again couldn’t find her. However, there are quite a few bees in the hive and I can’t see how half of them could have left to swarm to another site. I also found two additional Queen cells which were built not at the bottom of the frame but at the top. Because of their location they are either Supercedure cells, which indicates that the old Queen was failing and the bees were trying to raise a new Queen to replace her rather than trying to swarm, or they’re Emergency cells, which means the Queen met an early demise. Either way, something has happened to the Queen which as you might know is my worst nightmare!
There are plenty of bees left in my hive – this would indicate that they haven’t yet swarmed
It’s been quite warm on the island in the last week and by the looks of it the bees have been foraging tons of nectar and pollen and filling up their stores. With the addition of the last brood frame I put in yesterday I’ve also put on a ‘Super’ which is a box half the size of the large ‘Brood’ box they’re already living in. The Super is currently filled with ten frames ready for the bees to build on and so should give them plenty of room for now.
Even though I think I know what I’m doing I also stopped by Mr. E’s house this morning to get some experienced advice. I woke the poor fellow up on his TT holiday lie-in but he’s kindly offered to come have a look at my hive later this afternoon. In the meantime he’s told me not to panic since the building of Queen cells and swarming is a natural Honeybee process. I know that logically it happens to nearly every hive but I still can’t help feeling anxious for my bees. And I can’t help wondering where my lovely red-painted Queen is…
Hopefully the bees will be happier now that they have plenty of space and new frames to move into
I’ll have a bit more information later on and will be sure to report what Mr. E recommends shortly. Wish me luck!