So I successfully made 2 queens in May. So what now? How about a simple inspection on my Top Nuc last Wednesday. Obviously a nice tight brood pattern. And, WHAT, more queen cells? Yep, for whatever reason, they ain't happy with the new laying queen (the Top Nuc INSISTs on top quality, I suppose). Bees also love backups. So do I. So when I saw this frame I was delighted. No rest for the beekeeper: I knew instantly I would immediately turn around and make up two new one-frame nucleus colonies. I'd give each nuc a queen cell, and leave the third one for the Top Nuc to requeen itself. This frame had 3 capped QC's and one queen cup underway. This photo was taken on Day 9 or 10.
I started the following Thursday after work and close to sundown, stirring up the big hive underneath the Top Nuc. I had to steal 4 frames to make up two queenless 2-frame nucs (remember, I'm leaving one queen cell for the Top Nuc to requeen itself with). I had to steal 2 frames of brood with plenty of nurse bees and capped brood that will emerge in the coming 3 weeks, and not too many eggs left for the nurses to take care of, and 2 frames of food, both honey and pollen. I was honored with one sting that night for my efforts on my right arm.
The queen cells were all capped by Friday morning. This lets me know how old the cells were and therefore how the queen calendar will unfold on this cycle. I will leave the starts alone until the calendar tells me they should have laying queens in them, 14-18 days later (I'll probably wait 18 days to give them plenty of time).
The following Friday morning, it was time to harvest 2 of the 3 queen cells. Like an idiot, I wore the same smelly beekeeping clothes I'd worn all week so I smelled like a forest fire by Friday morning. Bees rewarded me with two more stings, another on the right arm inches away from the first sting and one on my ring finger (do NOT wear jewelry in the apiary). Also, queenless nucs are ORNERY! They have no queen, for crying out loud!
And HEY, it was time for me to use my brand new QUEEN CELL PROTECTOR CUPS! They make it easy to place a queen cell on a frame (just push it in) and there's no worry of it falling and damaging the queen. Also, the cups prevent the bees from chewing out the sides of the queen cell if, for some reason, they see it as a foreign invader. This allows the queen to mature and then hatch. They can chew out the bottom of the cell to help release her when it's time, though. It's my first time using the protector cups, can't you tell?
I took down one of my swarm traps and used that nuc box as one of my next places to make a start. I do need to make up some more multi-chambered "mating nucs" or "queen castles" as they're called. But use what you've got, and I am. Meanwhile, the bees were aflutter and had LOTS of things to tell me come Friday morning.
The girls bruised me while stinging me (no kidding ... guess they were pretty ticked off!). Swallowing my pride and gently proceeding, it was time to move on to my one mating nuc that already has a successful start in the left chamber. I put the queenless frame of nurse bees and frame of food in the right chamber Thursday night.
For some reason, I managed to push both queen cell cups in a little crooked. BUT, I wanted to get in and get out; the girls were CHASING me out! Still, all in all a success. Now, I cross my (somewhat swollen) fingers and toes, and hope that all 3 new queen attempts work. If so, I'll have 3 NEW NUCS in just two and a half weeks, in addition to the 1 new nuc I'd made in the left chamber last month. Say your prayers. And yes, girls, I will let you bee for a while, promise!
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Tom Davidson is the owner and beekeeper at T's Bees.
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