Well it certainly hasn't gone smoothly.
I had a queen disappear from one of my hives. Before we could give the hive a new queen, some worker(s) started laying. This will result in only drones (males), or perhaps a sterile queen if they try to make a queen from layer brood. The female/worker bee does all the work to maintain the hive, so laying workers are a sure end to the hive as they slowly die off and have no replacement workers. I bought a beautiful dark carniolan queen for them and they straight up hated her. Even after a week they were still gnashing at the cage to get her out, and not to invite her tea. I was so bummed because the carniolan breed is known for over-wintering really well up north…..
"So what now?" I asked my mentor. "Well," he says, and he gently brushes the bees off the queen cage and watches as they quickly jump back on, frantic and biting at the screened cover. "You can combine your hives." So, I send the queen home with him to find a more appreciative hive and receive instructions to carry my queen-less hive to the back of the property, gently shake the bees off of each frame, and leave them. I slid my other hive to the center of the stand and before I could even get the old hive pieces into the garage, the bees from the queen-less hive began making their way back. There was a bit of confusion, but by dusk most everyone was settled into their new home. (everyone in the one hive) About 8 bees remained out back, they never did make their way to the hive with the others. My mentor suggested maybe laying workers don't fly well and the may not know where home is… it's good riddance if they don't come back to the hive anyway. It was really quite the experiment! The good news is that the queen in my second hive is thriving and everything is moving along twice as quickly with the bee numbers doubled overnight.
I thought you'd enjoy seeing a few pictures of what should not be happening in a hive. If you look into the cells, you can see several eggs in each one. Queens will lay nice patterns with just one egg in each. Workers lay all over, leaving some cells empty and putting several eggs in others. The nanny bees have to remove the extra eggs, and it just creates a lot of work and a big mess.
All is not lost though! I was gifted with a swarm from another beekeepers hive….. and I was excited to see they are beautiful dark carniolans! They did not have a queen, so my mentor included some queen cells on one frame and I'm hopeful to find a queen on my next inspection. Fingers crossed!
On another note, the kids and I have read every bee book we could find at the library and we have three favorites to share with you. All of them share good information about bees, have beautiful pictures & are a joy to read. I'll be adding all three of them to our personal library, we love them that much!
The Beeman : A story of a grandson and his beekeeper grandfather, it rhymes and has less words making it a perfect read for the youngest crowd.
The Honeybee Man : More text and scientific information then the Beeman, making it a good fit for elementary age & beyond. I love that this book is about a beekeeper in the city!
Life & Times of the Honeybee : Very well written and engaging honeybee facts. We read a lot of "factual" books on honeybees and this one was hands down our very favorite.