image1Saturday evening I opened my hive. For the first time since I added the second hive box or deep, I removed and examined every single frame. I had several frames of capped brood and honey, a few patches of closed drone cells, a few frames of eggs, and two frames without any comb.

My mission was to find the queen. I had only seen her once before, and I was worried that my untrained eye wouldn’t find her. Mel Disselkoen had shared some queen-finding tips the weekend before, and I used them all:

  • Keep your back to the sun and the frames in your shadow, so that the queen is less likely to run
  • Begin at one side of the deep, and remove the first frame. As you do, keep your eye on the frame you will remove next. Continue to do this as you remove each frame. You can sometimes spot her before you pull the frame she’s on.
  • Once you’ve removed two or three frames, use your hive tool to separate the remaining frames. Putting a little space between the frames will prevent the queen from running from you.
  • Always look for the circle of control bees around the queen. It will be a formation unlike any other in the hive.

My queen was on the last frame I removed in the top box. I was amazed at how easily I spotted her once she was in front of me. I then put the frame in a temporary nuc box along with a few frames of brood and honey.

My queen and her attendants
My queen and her attendants

Then, following Mel’s On-the-Spot Queen Rearing method, I did my best to identify 3-day old larva in the comb, and I used my hive tool to notch the bottom one-third of the cells.

This hopefully gave the bees room to create queen cells around these larva, at which point they’ll feed the larva royal jelly to produce a new queen (the only difference between a worker bee and a queen bee is that the queen larva is fed royal jelly that causes her reproductive system to fully develop). If the hive does successfully requeen itself, the process will take long enough that any mites living in the hive will die off without anywhere to lay eggs, therefore creating a mite-free hive (read a fuller explanation here).

The nuc box with the queen and her nurse bees
The nuc box with the queen and her nurse bees

So, now I wait. I’ll open my hive next weekend to see if they have indeed produced queen cells. I’ve been warned that opening the hive before then would only cause confusion and may prevent the girls from rearing a new queen. If they don’t produce a new queen, I’ll reintroduce the original queen back into the hive and use a chemical treatment for mites. For now, I’ve moved the nuc box to my porch and am finding out just how much time it is possible to waste watching bees come and go.What can I say? I’m in love.

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