_My two new marked Russian queens arrived on Friday, safe and sound. The ladies at the post office handed it to me with contorted facial expressions and at arm's length, laughing at themselves the whole time.
_Knowing honey bees keep their hives at 94 degrees Fahrenheit, I quickly moved them into a basket for safe keeping on our screened in back porch, turning the overhead fan off.
_It was raining cats and dogs Friday. Bees don't much care for cats or dogs. So once a break occurred in the seven-inch deluge, Yvonne and I quickly erected her10x10 tent above the hive. My friend and mentor Hernan showed up to help me requeen Hive Boris and make the split, creating hive Natasha. First order of business? Going over a checklist of actions so we'll be synchronized.
_We had to put the four valuable frames of comb back in storage for safe keeping. We'll be using this once Natasha gets strong enough to start on a second box.
_Then our work began. Hernan didn't want to smoke the bees until the very end, or until needed. I made sure to have some syrup in a spray bottle nearby if things got out of hand. They did, and the spray came in handy, let me tell you!
_I began inspecting each frame from the top box of Boris, looking for the queen. We first have to remove her before adding in the new queen. We did this inspection while creating hive Natasha, inspecting and moving one frame at a time from Boris' top box into Natasha. Hernan re-inspected the frames as I handed them to him, in case my beek eyes missed the queen.
_Cloud of bees were everywhere, wondering what we were up to.
_One bee crawled up my right arm under my glove and gave me my second sting for the season. For some strange reason I found myself elated, again, at the sensation, just a couple minutes after. Unfortunately, Hernan got stung in a MUCH more unmentionable place. I don't think he finds these Russian girls as friendly as I do. "What's another stripe for the tiger?" he said in English, as we both laughed at our distress. I got him to translate it to Spanish (it sounded better). Having earned our extra stripes, Hernan spotted the queen on the next-to last frame of the top box. Her mark had completely worn off. My beek eyes didn't see her, but Hernan's trained eyes had no trouble seeing her. He quickly caught her in a queen cage, and moved her to the side.
_We removed all beetle traps while inside the hive. The beetle jails had caught a few of the pests in each of the traps, so I'm definitely a believer in these little contraptions. I also kept reassuring the clouds of angry bees that we had a larger, benevolent purpose at hand. I don't think they quite believed me.
_The queen catcher with the "old" queen was quickly surrounded by lots of her former ladies in waiting. Her pheromone call was unmistakable for them. The old queen was still laying well, but she'd increased the number of drone brood she was laying in recent weeks and was putting them in the center of the frames.
I decided to take action and requeen for further insurance of successful overwintering and a strong hive next spring that's less susceptible to swarming. I gave the old girl to Hernan, who has another first-year mentee with a hive that has tragically gone queenless.
_Hernan shows me how to easily place the new queen in her cage at the hive's center. We simply mushed the frames together to hold the caged queen in place.
_He removed the end, exposing the bee candy end. The queen and the few workers with her eat this from the inside to stay alive and healthy. The hive also will spend the next week eating through this candy end to free the queen. The whole time they will be getting used to her pheromone and accepting her as their leader. They'll even pass water through the cage's bars to her, once they've accepted her.
They wasted no time surrounded the new queen, shown at left center with the candy end pointing up. _
_Now it was time for the next queen to go in. One eager lady already was on the queen cage, smelling out the new ruler.
_And again she was surrounded by the hive in no time, with worker bees covering her queen cage and candy end, just off center at right of the photo.
_A lot of the bees from Natasha seemed to go back over to their former location at hive Boris in the hours after. Hernan said this was normal. But we put a ton of capped brood in Natasha from Boris' second box, as well as one frame from Boris' bottom that was chock full of brood. As these bees emerge in the coming days they'll know only Natasha's queen as their leader.
Now it's time to feed simple syrup to both hives, and otherwise leave them alone for a week. We'll check in on them next weekend to make sure they released the queens (and if not we'll help them along). Fingers and toes are crossed. In just two and a half months I'd gone from a small nuc of four frames of bees to two deeps of 18 frames crawling with bees. The clock is ticking, with autumn on its way. I'm confident, especially with four frames of drawn comb to give to hive Natasha when the time is right, that both hives will fill out to a second deep box each with plenty of bees and food stores for the winter. It's a gamble, but I feel good about it. We'll see. What will bee will bee, after all.
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Tom Davidson is the owner and beekeeper at T's Bees.
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