Beekeeping Bees

Monkey Beesness

It has been a little while since I have shared any updates about the bees but that does not mean that they have been quiet.  In fact, they have been very busy! I even added another hive on a nearby property.

When we last left off, I had inspected both hives-Willow and Briar.  For an update see this post and this one too. With my mentor, my beekeeping friend, and myself we had found the queen in Willow.  She looked good-nice and plump and active.  Her abdomen was a beautiful caramel color.  When it came to Briar, all three of us had searched for the queen to no avail.  So we decided to re-queen Briar.

Healthy Brood Pattern

After three days of waiting for the hive to get used to the queen and her attendants. The time came for me to uncork her queen cage and set her free inside the hive. I quickly maneuvered around the bees crawling on her cage, opened the cork and placed the queen cage back on the frames. I verified she was still in the cage and closed the hive.  Three days later, it was time to inspect the hive again.  By now the queen should have been laying and I should have seen plenty of brood (babies) and capped brood.  But to my surprise there was no brood.  I searched everywhere!  I did not find the queen and the overall numbers were still low. What the heck? I closed the hive.

What happened?
1.  The queen was rejected.  Maybe…
2.  The queen flew away as I opened the cage.  No, I had a visual on her.
3.  There still was an old queen that the three of us missed. Possible…
4.  The new queen was a dud.  Maybe…

A typical “caramel colored” queen, center of photo

The next day it was a brilliant warm and sunny day. I decided to go in again, take my time and really look through the hive with a fine tooth comb.  I removed the first frame, then the second and then the third.  Then I saw what appeared to be a big black ant!  In fact, it wasn’t an ant at all.  It was the queen of Briar!  In this typically robust hive, I had always seen evidence of the queen but I had never laid eyes upon her.  This is why.  She is so incredibly dark that she blends in amazingly well and her color is so different from any queens that I had seen in classes and in other local hives.  Wow!  What a shocker.  She was moving around the frames, appeared robust, active and nice and plump.  I closed up the hive as I had proof that she was there.  She must have killed the new queen that I had introduced.  It all made sense-sort of…but why was there no brood?

Evidence of the Queen-What to look for &
stages of life on a frame inside the hive.
egg–>larvae–>capped brood

I needed to think outside the box so I called a dear friend, Anita of Beverly Bees and thank goodness I did.  I explained all that occurred and the first thing that she asked me was, “What breed are your bees?”  I told her that they were essentially mutts-Russian, Italian, Australian, German and Carniolan.  However, because the one queen was so black genetically, I believed that Russian traits were expressed the most.  She then informed me that when other breeds are laying like gangbusters in the spring, Russian bees often take a break from laying.

Sure enough, I discovered that Russian bees will often take a break from laying eggs from the first dandelion bloom to the next bloom in spring.  I looked outside at the lawn. The dandelions were blooming.

Click here to read about more about my beekeeping adventures from the beginning.

Photo Credits:  Tilly’s Nest

Hello friends, welcome! Follow along on our chicken, beekeeping, gardening, crafting and cooking adventures from Cape Cod.

  • Wow, how interesting! This is just our first year of beekeeping and I don't know very much, but I had no idea that Russian bees would take laying breaks. Good to know! We have Golden Italian bees and they have been going crazy. I still haven't spotted the queen myself, but we see the signs that she is there and laying so that's good!

  • Hi Melissa,
    Always great to read about the bees. Not sure if you know, but Russian bees are very resistant to the Varroa mite. I hope she brings you great success in that department.
    Wishing you a great honey flow.

    • Thank you CB! I have spied a few dead varroa mites on the IPM boards so I know they are around, but I have not seen them in the hive on the bees. I was planning on giving them a good dusting next time I go into the hive with confectionery sugar. I too am hoping for a honey flow. My fingers are crossed! Have a wonderful afternoon.

  • Absolutely fascinating! And quite amazing that one hive contain different species of bees. Inside your hive looks like a very efficient business. We have lots of fruit trees on our property but i have only seen native Australian bees. Then an arborist told me that one of our eucalypts makes honey bees infertile. Hopefully we can bring that tree down this year. I would love to see honey bees move in.

  • I'm getting prepared to get bees next spring and your blog is one of my favorites! Your pictures are GORGEOUS (keep 'em coming!) and I very much appreciate you sharing your newbee experiences with us! Your hives are absolutely drool worthy and I love the names you chose for them. Where do you purchase your equipment from? All the hives I've found have flat tops, but your peaked tops are so whimsically lovely. Could you do a post that goes more in depth on using Honey B Healthy in lieu of smoke? I want to go that route, but I'm unsure how to use it as a mist. Thanks so much!