Getting Concerned…

…as if I wasn’t already.  Here’s our bee yard this morning:

After returning from our trip on Monday, we were finally able to open the hive yesterday.  So it was a full 15 days between finding all the swarm/supercedure cells and taking a peek to see how things were going.  As soon as we opened it up, I once again knew we were in trouble.  The girls were testy.  They quickly began pinging our veils and I could hear an angry buzzing.  The brood chamber still looked busy, but the frames are an absolute mess and I was unable to find any eggs or larvae.  The capped brood cells we did see were few and far between and I think were all drones.

As a warning: for some reason, my flash was going off even though there should have been sufficient light and I didn’t notice it until we were finished.  So, the shiny things you can see in the cells are the flash, not eggs or larvae.

I think most of the darker colored cells are pollen not capped brood as they were mostly sunk down into the cells.   I enlarged a few of these pictures to verify (you can see close ups by click on them), but I wasn’t using the good camera so its a bit hard to tell.

As  you can see, we still have plenty of bees.  It is possible that the old queen swarmed with a portion of the hive while we were gone, but I expected to see a larger depletion in the colony numbers if that happened.

So, I think my original hive is queenless.  There is still tons of bee activity, but I’m not sure how long that will continue if they have no queen.

Completely depressed, we opened the nuc box to see how things were going there.  It was actually not much different than before.  There is some larvae, but no eggs that I could see.  In fact, the queen cells that were there last time are either still there or new ones have been added.  They are still capped at this point.

If I had a second strong hive, I know I could just move eggs over and the bees would grow a queen if they felt like it was necessary.  Without that ability, I’m a bit lost.   I checked out bee math hoping for some ideas, and did find that it could take 25 days for a newly emerged queen to begin laying.  It’s been 15 so far.  So maybe I need to learn a bit of patience.

From what I’ve read, most beeks would probably suggest leaving them to figure it out, but I would feel horrible if I lost my first colony.  I feel like I should fight to keep them going.   I’ve emailed a few beekeepers to find out if there is a local source for queens in case it comes down to that.   If that is the most appropriate path, I’m not sure how much time I have to pursue that option before loosing the colony.

Any advice and words of wisdom would be greatly appreciated.

5/30/10 Update:  Just heard from another beekeeper that I should be patient.  The virgin queen probably isn’t laying yet.  If I don’t see any eggs on Saturday, I was advised to combine the frames from the nuc back into the original hive as there is likely a queen in one of the two hives.  Thanks Jeff!

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