Ten days after I removed the queen from my hive, I opened it back up knowing that the colony had created thirteen healthy queen cells, only two of which I could allow to survive (I’m hoping to split the hive in two). This is because I removed the queen suddenly from the hive, and many of the larva that the honeybees hurriedly built queen cells around were the exact same age. This means that they would likely emerge from their cells at the same time, which would cause them to chase each other out of the hive during combat, likely leaving it queenless. If one queen emerges first (which is more natural), she would visit each of the remaining queen cells, sting the developing larva to death, and assume her position as the reining beauty.

Not able to risk losing my queens, I had to remove all but two of the developing larva. I asked my mentor how to choose the most promising cells. His response: All the cells are perfect or the control bees would have broken them down. So, I opened the hive, and began to dig out the comb around the majority of the queen cells until they popped off the frame. Many of them squished in the process (as well as the worker bee larva around the cells), but four of them stayed intact.

Four intact and unharmed queen cells that I removed from the comb.
Four intact and unharmed queen cells that I removed from the comb.

I then separated my two hive boxes, creating two hives. I left the original hive box in the same location and left it with several frames of honey, a few frames of capped brood, and one queen cell. Since most of the bees will use their map-like spatial memory skills to return to the original hive, I put the majority of the capped brood and a smaller amount of honey in the second hive with the other queen cell. When the bees emerge from the cells, they won’t know they’ve been moved and will always return to this second hive.

So now I wait…

Queen bees develop fully in just sixteen days. Once they emerge, they must take their mating flight and find their way back to the hive (which happens successfully about 90 percent of the time). Fresh laid eggs will be evidence that my beloved honeybees requeened their hive successfully.

In the midst of answering a list of my anxious questions about the waiting process, my mentor tells me that “July [hive] starts are either successes or failures, and we can talk about that later.”

Wait… what?

And then he ends his email by instructing me to stay out of the hive and “Just be cool.”

Not my forte. Never has been.

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