Sunday, April 28, 2013

Earth Day at Kirkwood Farmers Market.

What a way to end an excellent week of beekeeping! Yes, Earth Day was last week but here in Kirkwood they held their own local version yesterday. Sadly it was wet and cold, but surprisingly well attended!

Walter from Cornucopia (the local cook shop that stocks some of my honey) asked if I'd like to have a stall. I jumped at the chance! I had no honey to sell but I love taking my observation hive places.

But it's been so cold lately and the hives are so far behind (developmentally) that I wasn't sure if I could find enough frames of brood etc. to full the observation hive. However, I had a brainwave! I sealed off the nuc below the observation window and decided to put in just a single frame of bees from my mating box. You'll remember the queens in these boxes had died or been killed off. I pulled a frame from one side of the box and thought no more of it.

I generated some interest at the market, which is actually quite easy when you have a hive of bees on display. People are always so interested and know quite a bit about the issues bees are currently facing, so it's nice to be able to talk about what is being done locally to help maintain bee populations.

I kept telling people that the frame was just bees and a bit of maturing brood, until one 9yr old girl said she saw the Queen. No way! But she was spot on! Clear as day, there was a Queen, quite black with a black shiny saddle on her thorax on the frame. She'd been busy too, lots of eggs and larvae were on the frame and we alao saw her laying. She was not only recently hatched, but mated too!

What had happened? This is my hypothesis. First the timeline: On 5 April I pulled one frame of eggs and brood from a hive at home and from the gardens. On 6 April I added new queens purchased from the club to these frames in the mating box. On 13 April I found the queens had died or been killed and I saw queen cells being raised on one side of the mating box. Finally, yesterday, 27 April, I had a new laying queen.

I'm assuming the bees started to raise a queen almost immediately after the frame was removed from the donor hive. One of these queen cells could therefore have been formed around a 3-day old egg. So the egg could have been laid on 3 April. This queen should then have hatched 16 days later, on 19 April. Now Queen cells are capped after 10 days so the cells I saw could have just been capped when I saw them. It's been 7 days since the queen hatched and I believe its perfectly possible that she took her maiden flight, got mated and started laying within a week of hatching. Quick, but not unusual!

My only worry now is did her trip to the cold day at the market upset her? And if not, what do I do with her? Well, I think I will split one of my hives in a couple of weeks time and I'll install her (or should that be invest her?) as the new Queen.

It's certainly been interesting this week!

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