Sunday’s inspection gave me quite the scare!

Sally is doing great – thriving – in fact – and making the most beautiful straight combs – I couldn’t be more proud. This is exactly what I was hoping to find!

Sally new comb

But when I went over to Mavis all was quiet and still – with only a handful (about 3,000) of recently hatched brood. I was heartbroken – where did my bees go? It was not a collapse – as I thought it could be – but either a swarm, an absconsion or I killed the queen in Mavis when I added a new hive body a few weeks ago. In any event the hive was weak – and I thought it was a goner.

But I was too distraught to inspect carefully – and waited until Monday night to go back with a second pair of seasoned eyes.

My apiary-mate, Sadie, and I discovered a supercedure cell (meaning a number of things – but basically an emergency queen reared from a per-existing worker egg) –

AND – in addition – we found THREE queen cups – hatched – meaning the original queen left (or died) and the ladies got right to work replacing her.

Mavis - empty comb

more queen cells found in Mavis


But there was still no sign of a queen – no eggs – and the 3000 recently hatched bees were directionless. I knew there was a virgin queen out there – trying to mate – and trying to return to her hive – but I had to think of the larger unit – and think quick – so I combined the remainder of Mavis with Sally.

close up Mavis queen cell

newspaper method

You can’t just pour the bees in to another hive – the stronger hive would kill (in defense) the intruders. It takes about three days for the new bees to acclimate and have their scents/pheromones merge with the others – so some genius discovered that if you put a few sheets of newspaper between the hive bodies of differing hives it takes about three days for the bees to eat through the newspaper and merge. The bees from Mavis are trapped in this hive body until they can break through so I supplied some syrup – and I go back daily to make sure all is right in the apis mellifera world.

combined hive

This isn’t a ‘done deal’. I could have made a grave mistake IF the new queen was in the old Mavis hive body when I combined (and I just didn’t see her), then all hell will break loose and the two queens will fight it out to the death. This will surely upset the beautiful rhythm of Sally’s progress and I will most certainly have even more of a mess on my hands.

BUT – best case scenario is that the hives merge – are healthy – and I have one strong super hive for this season which can possibly mean a stronger hive going in to winter (barring any infestations of mites or other disease).

AND I will learn how to split a hive next year and purposely rear a new queen! (maybe)

The bees certainly know how to take care of themselves – it’s the human intervention that screws things up – and I have never felt so amazed, helpless, lucky and awestruck at the same time – beekepping is blissfully humbling and I’m so glad I can share this with all of you!

I will return to the apiary for a full inspection this Friday (6/22) after work – around 6:30P – if anyone would like to join me!

Happy solstice!