Wed., June 14, 2017
I’d left my last post with news that two of my hives (Purple and Yellow) had laying workers. I knew this because the brood was large, bumpy drone brood, and the pattern was very sporadic and inconsistent. Plus, neither had queens, so it made sense that the girls would make a last stitch effort, afer several weeks of hoping for signs of a queen, and take matters into their own hands.
Worker bees don’t typically lay eggs, unless the hive goes queenless for an extended period of time, at which point they will start developing reproductive organs and will begin laying eggs. These bees are called “laying workers”. Because those eggs are unfertilized, drones will hatch. With no continuous reproduction of female bees, the hive will eventually die out. Just requeen the hive, right? Well, here’s the kicker. Laying workers will kill your queen, guaranteed.
Several actions can be taken, including adding a frame of brood so they can attempt to make a new queen. But that takes a few weeks, and at that point the hives needed queens, ASAP. So the best option was to eliminate laying workers from the hive. We do this by shaking the hive frame by frame. The idea is that the laying workers, who are young bees that have never actually left the hive, won’t be able to find their way back to the hive, while the older bees who’ve already flown from the hive and successfully returned will be able to find their way back to home base. At that point, it’s safe to introduce a new queen. Not a good situation for the laying workers, I know, but it works, and hopefully I know enough now so I won’t have to do this ever again.
Luckily my hives were small, so I popped the first one, yellow hive, into a wheelbarrow and took them to the opposite end of the yard (100 ft or more from its original location) and proceeded to shake bees off of frames. Dressed in full gear, I soon noticed that the neighbors were having a party next door, and I hoped that, as guests walked up the driveway on the opposite side of the fence, they wouldn’t notice the space creature shaking flying insects just a few feet away. Masked by a thin layer of shrubbery, I think I managed to go unnoticed. Bees were flying everywhere as I transferred empty frames into a tightly closed, empty hive. The key to success is not to allow any worker bees back into the hive…not even one.
I wheeled Yellow hive back to home base and reassembled it. The older bees were already gathered and waiting to re-enter their home. Did I mention that bees are amazing little creatures? So I disassembled Purple hive and decided to shake them out front. I shook 2 or 3 frames before I realized the hubster was relaxing in the front swing. “You’re not shaking those things out here, are you?”, he yelled. “Uh, no,” I yelled back, as bees flew amuck in every direction. At that point there was no turning back, so I finished what I started and returned Purple hive back to home base, watching as the flying residents made their way back in.
Next step, requeen the hives!