Monday, May 27, 2013

Hive Inspections Pt.2: Re-Re-Queening & My Face Is Over 9000

   The last week and a half has been pretty good for all of the bees, except for the Dothraki. They've been having some issues. Well, either that or they're being very secretive about how well they're doing.

   Upon last hive check, I discovered that their queen cells had hatched out. Also spotted was a potential virgin queen. This week though, there was no queen anywhere, and not just that. There were also a set of NEW queen cells, all of which had been sealed. Curiouser and curiouser.

   One thing that did come to mind was how last inspection's virgin queen was just so scrawny. It didn't even click that it was a virgin queen until a few days later. She was so tiny that, at the time, I had thought she was just a weird looking bee who had developed improperly. Just to be safe, I made sure to skip a full inspection on them to not spook her.

This Week: Dothraki

   As usual, Thursday morning I had gone outside with my coffee to watch them start their day. This time though, there was a small commotion at the entrance. Two bees were dragging another bee out. One bee turned back at the lip of the bottom board, and then the remaining bee flew her captive down to the bricks. The captive bee didn't seem to be struggling at all, and the worker proceeded to hop another six feet with her "cargo". That was a bit strange and caught my interest. Normally they'll dump their dead a max of two feet away. This must have been a special prisoner.

   It was a virgin queen. The first thing that highlighted her as a queen was the honey colored abdomen with a dark tip and no black bars. 

   The next indicator was the classic queen thorax. If you look at the picture above, on the left side is the virgin queen, and the right side is a worker bee. Notice how the thorax on the queen is much more pronounced, has a very light covering of hair (most of which can only really be seen from an angle), and has a defined circular shape in the front half. 

   Also take note of how different her primary (outermost) wings are compared to the worker's. The worker's wings are noticeably smaller in width for the last third of the main wing, while the queen's wings are more wasp-like and much more broad at the tips. I'll have to do some research on the wing details, but I would assume the queen's are for fast, agile aerobatics to avoid predators while on maiden flights and swarm migrations.

   As for the health of this virgin queen, I'm thinking she was in poor health and the workers killed her by stinging her. She wasn't convulsing, it was more of a twitching. The tiny joints in her legs were twitching and vibrating as if she couldn't control them, which says "venom" all over it.

  Honey bee venom is called "apitoxin" and is primarily an anticoagulant. According to Wikipedia's entry on apitoxin, two components of it are apamin and phospholipase. Apamin is a mild neurotoxin, and phospholipase is an enzyme that breaks down phospholipids (cell membranes). Both of these would certainly cause degradation of motor functions as characterized by this virgin queen's symptoms.

   I felt bad for her, but the bees know best. From my perspective I have no idea if there is something wrong with this queen, but from a bee's perspective there could be some glaring problem with this queen. She is a very pretty queen though, the picture doesn't do justice. I'm going to start a pin board for queens, and to create a sort of catalog of different queen colorations. Inevitably, there will be queens that produce very irritable bees. These will have to be killed so that the workers can raise a new, nicer queen. So instead of just pinching (squishing) them, it'd be neat to just collect them.

   Anyways, after taking some pictures I went back and inspected the hive. There were seven new queen cells, and a good number of capped brood had hatched out. The hive was very busy with workers packing away pollen for the new larvae and bigger population. Again, I didn't see a queen, and the current queen cells were all sealed up with no holes. So I really don't think that virgin queen had been stung to death by a resident queen from the previous hatching. Otherwise, the resident queen would have chewed through the new queen cells to kill the occupants.

  Just to be safe, I removed an unused frame of empty foundation from the Dothraki hive and traded a frame of brood from the new feral hive. After giving them the new frame they were closed up. I kept it all as brief as possible due to them already being stressed without a queen. I'm crossing my fingers for this next wave of queens, mostly so that I don't have to keep pulling brood from the new feral hive. 

Notes: All comb related indicators are considered false due to constant trading of frames, Brood: First set of queen cells hatched (observed ejection of dying virgin queen with failure of fine motor control), Second set of queen cells intact (x7)

New Ferals

   These girls are doing awesome! It's incredible just how quickly these bees haven taken to their new home. Not only are they exploding with activity at the first indication of the sun rise, but they're chugging syrup like mad!

   One way to tell how much construction going on inside a hive is by how how much dust they're tossing out. Like any busy construction site, there's wax scraps and debris to get rid of. Just look at he picture above. There's definitely some heavy lifting going on inside this hive!

   Prior to taking a frame of brood, these girls were at 7 frames of bees + comb. I was going to stack a second Deep box on top to make a two story hive body, but after the frame removal I think they're going to need a bit more time. This definitely calls for a trip to South Florida Bee Supplies for more frames and boxes though. They'll be moved to the bee yard this coming Friday.

   Oh! Almost forgot. The bottom board that's currently on them is a pretty old board that I bought on the cheap. It doesn't have proper spacing for an entrance feeder or for an entrance reducer. So I had to improvise a bit to come up with a good feeding solution.

   What I ended up doing was just taking two pieces of wood and forming a brace for the jar. Do not use this method with anything breakable unless the hive is very heavily sheltered. This area of the patio is sheltered on two sides by the house, so I felt comfortable using a mason jar for this. 

   This left a nice little sheltered area that channels the bees toward the jar. I also put a drop of honey right in front of it so that the bees could hone in on the smell. From everything I read, sugar syrup is odorless. That would explain why ants aren't sneaking in to steal syrup. Therefore the honey is pretty necessary, at least in a small bee yard. In a large bee yard there are just so many bees that it's almost guaranteed that someone will find the feeder by chance, and then call for backup. 

   Sure enough, they found it within 2 hours. Ever since then they've been chugging syrup like mad, emptying jars within 48 hours. It's pretty impressive! They also have drone cells which means they are in ace shape. A hive won't create drone cells unless they are very "happy" and unstressed.

Pests: Two hive beetles (both dead, assumed to have hitchhiked with cut-out comb), Brood: 5 frames (Eggs/Larvae/CappedBrood/Drone, one frame given to Dothraki) with solid laying pattern, Honey: 2 frames (Honey only), Syrup: 2 mason jars in one week

My Face

   This sting is really bringing out my Mandarin genes. When I asked friends to rate my Asian level on a scale of 1-9000; it was a conclusive 

   So again, wear your veils please! 

   This updated ended up being a lot longer than I expected. Mostly due to just interesting bees are, and how much change has been going on with these bees. Then again it's Spring, the best time to bee a bee! See what I did there? Tomorrow's post will be about the Winterfell hive mostly, as well as relocating my bees to a different part of the bee yard property and a cut-out from a trailer home. Stay tuned!

Edit: This post has now made some asian dating sites pop up in the Google ads hahaha. Silly Google.