Thursday, July 16, 2015

2015-07-15: Cut Out Hive and New Queens!

I've finally accomplished two of the goals I set for this year: split my hives and get some better genetics with some Michigan raised "survivor" queens!  I learned about the Northern Bee Network at the Michigan Beekeepers conference in the Spring, so I went through their list of Queen breeders and found one that followed practices I conform to.  I placed an order for three queens and on Wednesday morning I received a phone call at 6 AM from the post office telling me to come get my bees.

Three Queens
The Splits:

The basic concept of how I was going to do my splits was to select two frames of open/capped brood and two frames of honey/pollen from the donor hive and place them into the 5 frame nuc box.  The remaining frame would be an empty frame with plastic foundation with the new queen cage on it.  Key number one is making sure you don't accidentally transfer your existing queen into the new hive!

I began in Green Hive by quickly scanning a few frames in the honey supers just to see how they were doing.  Almost every frame of foundation was drawn and filled with nectar.  They are doing great!  I then removed the two honey supers and started going through the brood boxes.  The first few frames on the outside were solid honey.  After I made a few adjustments to the bulges in the comb, I transferred them to the nuc box.  Two honey frames done.  Now to find the brood frames and the queen.  Next few frames had some eggs and a lot of honey so I didn't take them.  Frame five had some nice capped brood, so I meticulously studied it looking for the queen.  Flipped the frame over and looked for her again.  Back and forth two more times after that and I was satisfied she wasn't there.  I walked over to put it into the nuc and checked it one more time.  In it went.  Frame number six was another good brood frame.  Looking....looking....flip....looking....bam!  There she is hiding in the gap between the frame and the comb.  Each time I flipped the frame she'd run back to the other side.  Sneaky!  I took a queen marking cup my wife had bought for me and scooped her up into it and set her off to the side (more on this later).

Queen in the marking cup
I took this frame and into the nuc it went.  I pulled out the first queen cage and the queen looked alive and well inside.  I then noticed it had a piece duct tape over the end.

Queen cage
I assumed the duct tape was to prevent the candy from being eaten by the bees during shipment, but since the end is stuck down into a hole in the shipping cage, I'm not really sure how they would get to it.  Anyway, I removed the tape, exposed the candy and wedged the cage in between two of the frames.  First nuc complete!  I took another one of the queen cages and put her into the donor hive and closed it up.

First nuc complete
The second nuc was a bit more difficult.  After pulling off the honey super I went through the entire first brood box and only found one good frame of honey and one good frame of brood.  I did spot the queen and made sure that frame was out of the way.  I had to go into the bottom box to look for two more frames.  Generally I don't really go into the bottom box unless I really have to.  You always end up crushing some bees when moving boxes around and they are also really heavy!  Thankfully I pulled the first frame in the bottom box and it was solid honey.  Into the nuc with you!  The next frame was a fantastic brood frame!  Nuc #2 was complete with the added plastic frame and queen cage.  I replaced the frames from the donor hive with the same empty plastic frames and put the boxes back together.

This all sounds pretty simple but all told it took about 3.5 hours!


Remember that queen I had removed and put into the marking cup?  Well, the reason I removed her from the hive was because I was noticing many signs from this hive of what I think is Chronic Bee Paralysis Virus. The characteristic symptoms are bees with a greasy black shiny appearance, trembling bees unable to fly, clusters of bees walking on the ground and healthy bees trying to drag the sick bees out of the hive.  I was able to spot all of these symptoms.

Sick "greasy" looking bee
Clusters of bees walking on the ground
Sick bees being dragged out
This disease is typically vectored in from the dreaded Varroa mite.  I haven't done mite counts yet this year but when I do I wouldn't be surprised to see a higher count in this hive.  Since they don't have treatments for this disease, the recommendation is to requeen the hive.  This will give some new genetics that hopefully won't be as susceptible to the disease, as well as giving a break in the brood cycle while the new queen is being released and eventually begins to lay eggs.  The break in the bee's brood cycle also gives a break to the Varroa mite's cycle as well since they only reproduce in capped brood.

So as far as requeening goes, putting a new queen into the hive is one thing.  Removing the old queen is another.  And dispatching the old queen yet another.  Is it sad that I was getting all worked up over having to kill the old queen?  Well, I couldn't get myself to just "pinch" her.  Since you can make a swarm lure by soaking dead queens in alcohol, I though about just tossing her into a jar of alcohol.  But the thought of drowning freaks me out so I couldn't do that either.  I finally decided to put her in the refrigerator.  If it is anything like dying from hypothermia, then slowly "going to sleep" from the cold might not be such a bad way to go.  I hope it works that way anyway!  Green Hive queen is dead.  Long live the new queen!

Cut Out Hive:

 The bees from the cut out seem to be settling into their new home, Yellow Hive.  I have fed them two mason jars filled with honey so far to make up for all the honey I stole from them during the cut out.  I found the girls have done a really good job of attaching the combs rubber banded into the frames.  And they've started to chew through the rubber bands as well.

Cut out comb
 There are plenty of larva on the frames as well as nectar and pollen so that is a good sign.  The not so great sign is that I did NOT get the queen.  Here is the evidence:

Emergency Queen cells
I spotted numerous capped and uncapped emergency queen cells across a number of frames.  Probably around 8 in total.  The good thing is that at least they had some viable larva that they could start turning into queens.  I had thought about ordering another queen to place into this hive but since they already have some capped cells, I decided to let them raise their own queen.  A capped queen cell should emerge in about 8 days from now.  Twelve days after that (assuming she has good weather for her mating flights and doesn't get eaten by a bird) she should be laying eggs.  So, sometime in mid August Yellow Hive should be back in action again!

Next Steps:

I'll be checking the hives to make sure the new queens have been released in a few days.  After that I will do another full inspection to make sure there are new eggs and larva.  I'll plan on doing some mite sampling at that time as well.

Until then.......thanks for reading!


  1. I hope all your splits take off! Very interesting information on the Chronic Bee Paralysis Virus. That's not one I've heard of.

    1. Thanks! I hope I have enough time left to build them up properly before winter.

      Yeah, I'm only guessing that is the virus they have but it seems to fit with the symptoms. I wonder if I should sample some bees and send it to a lab? Have you ever done that?

  2. May the Force be with you and your bees. One day soon I'd like to see you live when you're in beekeeper mode.