Last week after the first hive’s second swarm, I did an inspection and found no queen, but it still had some queen cells, so we’re hopeful for them. Then I checked the nuc (nucleus, aka mini, hive) which contained the original swarm I recaptured. They were doing marvelously!
Can you see the queen? She’s the long one above and to the left of my finger. I started to name her, but then I realized that this should be my original queen Cleopatra who would have left with the swarm. She sure looks big and shiny and young, though…. It’s entirely possible something happened to Cleo and the colony raised a new queen and then swarmed with her. So I don’t know who this is! *Many beekeepers mark their queens with a dot of paint, but I do not. Now I am seeing the benefit.
The bees had been in the nuc for about 2 weeks and built full comb on five of the six bars. This really shows the difference between buying bees from a beekeeper and catching a swarm. My first hive built a single 4×6 piece of comb in their first 10 days. But swarms know that whatever new home they find will need to build comb, so they’re ready to get to work. Five full bars is an amazing amount of comb! With that much production, the colony was quickly running out of space. I didn’t want to upset them further and possibly force them to abscond (abandon the hive), so we got to work right away on a new full-sized hive.
After slaving away on a second hive all weekend, today is move-in day! The general rule of thumb for moving a hive is “less than 2 feet or more than 2 miles” which means don’t move it very much so the ones out foraging can still find their way back OR move it so far that it’s obvious to them that they’re not in Kansas anymore and will need to reorient to the hive. We set up the new hive just behind the location of the nuc. It looks like it is under the hive in the picture, but it’s a little bit further back.
I baited it with lemongrass oil which smells like “hey we’re over here!” to bees. Then I took the bars one at a time out of the nuc and placed them in the hive with empty bars in-between so they have lots of new room to build. In the picture below, you can see the empty nuc at the bottom right. I left it there after transferring the comb so that any straggler bees would have plenty of time to find the new hive. Tonight after everyone is inside, I’ll plug the entrances with corks and we will move the hive about 30 feet to the other end of our yard. Then I’ll open the entrances and place a leafy branch over the entrance which will force the bees to take notice they’re somewhere new the next time they leave the hive and (hopefully) not get lost.
One more thing I wanted to share were some pictures of all the comb I had to remove from the hive last week. This is a 2-gallon container full.
There is some nectar and a few drone brood, but nothing except wax that’s worth saving. Also, I got a shot of the nice color variation you can have in comb. The white in the middle is new comb. The golden on the right had some nectar in it, and the darker brown comb on the left just means that it’s the oldest. It’s the pollen, nectar, honey, and brood that turn pristine white comb into the honey-yellow wax we are used to seeing. To render beeswax, you melt it in water then let the wax cool and float to the top. Remove the wax and melt again in a double boiler, strain, & pour into molds. Then you’re left with beautiful beeswax cakes like these!