I scrambled around the last few days trying to find a queen producer that actually had queens for sale. I found a few places online that are still producing and selling queens but it seems that shipping them is pretty risky. Who knows how much they'd get thrown around or squashed in transit or how hot or cold they would get! Not to mention, shipping isn't cheap.........and I'm cheap. I talked to a guy I work with and he suggested talking to the same person I bought my initial packaged bees from. Duh! So, I called Kline's and they didn't have any queens but they did refer me to someone that might. I called that guy and he was sold out BUT he did have some queen cells AND he lived right in between where I live and where I work!
For those of you unaware of the differences and risks involved, basically you can buy a mature queen that is mated and actively laying eggs and you can introduce her into your hive via a cage and over the course of a few days the bees in the hive will accept her as their new queen. Once this happens you can release her from the cage (otherwise the bees would kill her). With a queen cell, it is an unhatched, virgin queen. This means you can just put the cell in the hive and she will hatch out in a few days and smell like all the other newly hatched bees. But she is a virgin and will then have to fly out and mate and then return to the hive.....all without getting eaten by a bird or smacking into a car windshield.
Since I'm kind of in a bind being queenless and I don't want to take the risk of shipping (and extra time waiting for shipment), I decided to go with the queen cells. To mitigate some of the risk, I bought two. My thought was that I would split my queenless hive and put one queen cell in each box. In this way, if only one queen hatches and mates successfully, I could easily re-combine the two hives back into one. Or, I could even move frames of brood from the new queen hive to the queenless one and eventually have them raise a new queen. Worst case scenario is that both queen cells do not produce a mated queen. Best case is that both do.
Temperatures were forecast to be in the mid 90s, so I went early in the morning to pick up the queen cells. The guy was great and showed me around his entire operation. He showed me all his hives and had me suit up so he could show me his queen builder colonies and how he did his grafting and queen rearing. Very cool stuff! The only bad thing is that is was 11 AM and already 88 degrees by the time I left. Once I was home, I think it was about 92 degrees and I was not excited to put on my bee suit. I put out some cinder blocks and a hive bottom board and began to split the hive. Honey super and top brood box off. Bottom brood box off and carried over to the new hive bottom board. Hive tool moves two of the middle frames apart, hold the queen cell in and push the two frames back together. Put a honey super on that was partially filled from last year and close up the new hive. Back to the old hive, put the brood box on the hive bottom board and in goes the queen cell. Honey super back on and close it up. All told I think it took me 15-20 minutes but I think I must have lost about 50 pounds sitting in my bee suit baking in the sun. Ugh. I finished up by putting some grass clipping on the landing board of the new hive to cause the bees trying to leave the hive to re-orient themselves. This will hopefully prevent them from returning to the location that they remembered as home........the old hive location.
Now the waiting begins. The cells should hatch in a day or two (assuming there are alive queens in those cells). The new queens will emerge and take a few days to relax and get to know everyone. Then they will begin their mating flights. The latest studies show that a virgin queen will mate with 15+ drones before returning to the hive to begin her reign. So, within the next approximately two weeks I should find brood in the two hives. Don't hold your breath until the next inspection, I'm already holding mine!
Thanks again for reading.