Kundalini yoga master Yogi Bhajan always said, "Patience pays. Wait. Let the hand of God work for you. One who has created you, let HIM create all the environments, circumstances and facilities and faculties. ... Dwell in God and befriend your soul. All the faculties and facilities of the Creation which are in your best interests shall be at your feet. You need million things. Million things will reach you, if you are stable, established, firm, patient. ... Sat Nam." In fact it was a prayer and a mantra I listened to at one workshop, where he chanted those two words over and over again, "Patience pays." In the past few days, I remembered the power of that mantra.
Last Saturday I inspected both of my queen cell starts, the one nucleus hive I'd put in my dual-chambered mating nuc and the "top nuc" colony that has a top entrance of its own and sits atop a regular booming hive. Queen rearing is about math and good fortune. I spent vacation double-checking the math and had it correct. I waited 26 and 27 days after each egg had been laid. Queen cells are capped on day 8, so you know how old a cell is when one day it's uncapped and the next day it's capped, which was the case on my first two attempts at making starts this season. Queens should start laying on day 24. On Saturday, this is what I found:
I felt like I'd squandered a royal chance at increase. I'd cut out a queen cell and gave it to the queenless (and understandably irritable) nurse bees in the left nuc. And, the top nuc had a cluster of 4 queen cells. Only one virgin would win, though, emerging and then killing the others still in their cell. But, beekeeping is a lot about finishing what you start. I SHALL make increase this year ("Lord willin' and the creek don't rise"). Quickly my goals and aims at potentially selling a few nucs this year in addition to making plenty for myself to over-winter seemed to vanish into thin air. I started to beat myself up about it, then realized all of the MANY blessings including all the honey waiting to be harvested in a little over a month from now. "Patience pays." I took a frame that had pollen and some eggs, not too many, just a few eggs and a few larvae on the bottom edges and gave it to the left-chambered nuc to give them another chance at drawing out a cell or two. The top-nuc? I'd just let them put up honey and leave them alone until after the harvest, since they already did have a queen in the bottom-most chamber of that configuration.
Four days later, I took a peek back into the left-chambered nuc. Had they managed to spin a queen cell or two? I was instantly struck by how calm and quiet these bees were (though a few wanted to sting me, but that's normal when you're working close to sundown) compared to a week before. That wasn't my own surprise. I lifted out a frame in the middle and saw, GOOD LORD, fresh eggs that had been laid within the previous 3 days, some larvae and a MAGNIFICENT solid pattern of capped brood across the top 3/4's of one of the deep frames!!! I couldn't believe it. This little nuc HAD succeeded. The queen cell I'd transplanted into this hive hatched and the queen successfully mated. I rechecked all the frames to see if I could see the young queen, but no such luck. I did re-inspect the frame several times and each time delighted at the sight of fresh single eggs surrounded by larvae of various ages surrounded by capped worker brood. Woo-HOOO, I now have 3 queens a-laying in the apiary!
Unfortunately, my camera had decided to not cooperate so I didn't get any photos. But I didn't care. I was now up one. Packing up and turning away to go back onto yard work I stopped. "What if ... WHAT IF the same thing happened in the top nuc?" I asked. "Patience pays." So, I gave them a few puffs of smoke and gave a look. I found what I'd seen before on Saturday: empty frame, honey frame, more honey, another honey frame, honey, and, WHAT'S THIS, but a frame of FRESHLY LAID EGGS and larvae and 3 QUEEN CELLS, 2 of them capped and the 3rd about to be. Apparently a queen HAD succeeded here, too. She had been mated and began to lay but either I killed her when I checked the nuc on Saturday or the colony thinks she's weak and they want a better queen. So they're creating more queen cells out of what she'd laid. It's amazing how easy the bees can create emergency queen cells out of fresh comb, no "notching" required. Fresh comb is soft and easy for them to manipulate. I will continue to use fresh comb in my cell starter colonies from here on.
Smiling, and repeating Yogi Bhajan's mantra I realized that, for whatever reason, it simply took the new queens a week longer than their earliest possible date to begin laying. I am so glad I decided to leave the hives as they were on Saturday, wait a few days and then re-inspect. Patience DOES pay. So 4 days after my initial disappointment, this is what I discovered I actually have on hand:
Patience pays. Sat Nam.
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Tom Davidson is the owner and beekeeper at T's Bees.
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