Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Open Queen Cells or Cups

This evening's inspection was in the slowly setting dusk after a bright warm day.  I removed the super with its 5 frames which were now almost fully drawn.

The feeder was empty as I expected.  Going through the brood frames, the first was loaded with honey.  Looked good enough to eat - but I'm leaving that.  

I started to notice larvae and eggs (2 or 3 days old) in open cells with plenty of sealed brood besides.  What surprised me though was the presence of 3 opened Queen cells/cups across a number of frames.  There were well formed - text book stuff.  Altogether I found three - all open (without eggs/larvae) as shown.  There was no sign of the hinged cap so I'm puzzled.  Was there a swarm? Are these aborted attempts at making a Queen cell?  Has my original Queen left?  I didn't see her but that's not unusual!  

It's 11 days since I last look through the frames at which point there was no sign of these cells.

There were plenty of eggs (all laid in individual cells as opposed to laying worker eggs) so I ask myself - do I need to be concerned because I saw open queen cells/cups?  The laying pattern was good as you can see.

There were more drones than recently although not hugely so but quite a lot of drone cells (capped).  I am sure that I'm being alarmist but I'm surprised.  Is the presence of the number of drones and drone cells significant given the time of year (although we're still experiencing this Indian Summer)?

The population was a strong and calm and I know there was a Queen present within the last 3 days from the eggs (I am assuming these were laid by a mated Queen). 

My bee-assistant and fiancee was kindly given a new camera for her birthday (by some very generous guy who shall remain nameless!) so there should be a few more photos from now on...

Lastly, to the credit of my photograper, she caught one of the season's last cornflowers with a visitor looking for a quick meal!


Barbara's Spot on the Blog said...

Cliff, your frames look awesome to me and the queen has a lovely laying pattern.

I don't think there's need for alarm. There's been a lot of requeening going on this year and many believe it's weather related. I wouldn't worry about a laying worker so soon, the for some reason have decided they need a new queen. The main decision at for you at this time I think (being a new beekeeper myself) is whether to let them continue with the process or try to give them a new mated queen. Sometimes they won't accept a new queen and also crushing the queen cells won't guarantee they'll stay with their existing queen (presuming she's still alive). The downside I found with waiting for the requeening was the big population drop waiting for the hatching, mating, returning, laying and then the new bees to hatch.

I totally feel for your scenario having gone through it this summer.

Cliff W said...

Thanks Barbara.

After I posted, I put out an emergency call to our association apiary manager (Thanks, John S) and I'm assured that these Queen "cups" are nothing to worry about. He has been keeping bees for around 40 years so I bow to his wisdom and slept well. Seemingly, the eggs are sign enough to remove any concern. These Queen cups don't signify anything particularly wrong at this time of the season. The ivy flow is underway (after an awful summer) so the amount of nectar coming in has probably upset the bees' plans. [Queen cells in April / May would be a different matter, of course!]

It'd be good if we can spot our original Queen but the air temperature in the evenings isn't good for the brood so the inspections need to be swift.

This weekend, before we go on holiday for a few days, I intend to reverse the order of the brood box and super. Queen excluder won't be used. The theory is to ensure sufficient room for laying into the autumn and stores enough to prevent starvation. The winter cluster will always move upwards in the hive around the brood frames, so a super below (for extra laying space / nectar storage) will be superfluous by the end of the winter.

Lynn said...

Hi Cliff. I'm glad you called your local expert. Beekeepers with years of experience are much more valuable than any of the books I read. I think you had a good tip your bees were fine when you found the colony to be calm. A queenless hive is not happy and I think you'd know it by the sound and the frenzy of the workers.

I hope your fiance thanked that nice man who gave her the camera. :) Sounds like a nice guy to me. Great to see pitures from you. Hope to see more of the garden. The cornflower is beautiful. (When is the wedding?)

PhilipH said...

What a great post, even though I am not a beek! And those phots were ab fab. Terrific stuff Cliff.

Anonymous said...

Greetings Cliff!

Those frames look terrific, and wow, check out that queen cup. Looks like a turnaround in that hive -- but based on the pictures, a good turnaround. That thick brood pattern is a great sign for sure, so it looks like your queen is doing what she does best!

Hope your holiday is fun and you get some rest and relaxation!


Beegirl said...

Hi Cliff! Love all your photos! Most excellent assistant! Glad to hear the girls are good. Such a wonderful brood pattern. Looks like you have a good queen!!