Please remember, we are very new at this. This is an account of what we're observing and doing, NOT a recommendation of what to do. Only time will tell if we're on the right track. So in the meantime, read along, look at the pictures and appreciate all the amazing skills that the BEES possess.
A couple weeks ago, on a very warm and sunny day I looked out the window above my kitchen sink and even from there I could see that something interesting was going on at the upper hive. Thankfully, I had read about bearding and knew that it wasn't a sign that the bees were swarming, it just meant that they were warm inside the hive and needed to cool off themselves (by hanging out outside) and the hive (by fanning at the entrance). We hadn't yet opened the entrance reducer all the way. We were keeping the entrance small so that the new colonies would have some added protection from intruders (giving their guard bees a smaller opening to guard). Needless to say, that evening Jamey opened the entrances to allow them to cool down. Soon after, the hive entrance looked normal again.
Marking the Queen
As I've mentioned before, the queen in the upper hive has been incredibly elusive. Usually, just seeing evidence of eggs would be enough for us to know she's still in there but this hive was booming (building comb and filling it like crazy) so we knew we'd soon need to divide it. If we didn't, we'd risk the bees feeling crowded and deciding to swarm.
So, we purchased a queen marking kit. We decided to make a trip into the hive with the sole purpose of finding and marking her so that she'd be a breeze to locate when we needed to make the divide later on. Here are the parts of the kit we used to mark her.
a queen catcher (looks like a hair clip), a red marker (color matters) and a queen marking tube with foam plunger
Looking for a queen feels like looking for a needle in a haystack. We know we'll get better at this, but particularly with this queen, it feels impossible to find her. Jamey's parents were here this particular weekend and Jamey's mom happened to walk out to the hives and was right there (with no protection on) when we spotted and marked her. For her first time at the hives, she was a brave woman, indeed!
Jamey finally spotted her about midway through the hive. Our first task was not to lose sight of her, the weasel. Then, using the queen catcher, he caught the queen and a few worker bees in the little contraption.
He then allowed the workers to crawl out and I helped slip the queen in the tube, slipping the plunger in behind her so she couldn't get out. Next, we inverted the tube and let her stand on the foam. Very gently, Jamey slid the plunger to the top gently pressing her against the mesh at the top. This kept her nice and still so a dot of red ink could be placed on her thorax (the part of the queen between her head and abdomen).
We held her in the plunger for a few moments to allow the ink to dry before returning her to the hive. You can see that the end of her abdomen is dark- this is what made her hard to find. Our other queen's entire abdomen is very light in color which makes her stand out among the other bees. This queen had some camouflage going on- but no longer! Now, she sports a flashy red dot.
But here's where things got interesting. Instead of just marking her and putting her back into the hive, we ended up doing two things (over that day and the next) that we had no idea we'd be doing this early in our beekeeping adventure. Stay tuned- they need a whole post of their own.Pin It