Drone Genocide

I apologize for the back-to-back bee posts, but it is that time of year!  So bee patient… I promise I will throw a bit more variety into the mix, next post.

If you can recall, I did a split of H1 last month.  If you can’t recall, here is the link to –> Split – 21 March.  This was the first time I had ever split a hive.  I researched my bee books and scoured the internet on information how to split one strong hive into two hives, and went in feeling pretty good about how to accomplish it.   Over this past weekend, I designated Saturday as my production day, and Sunday as my inspection day.

Sunday afternoon, I drug all of my equipment out of the garage and staged my hive tool, smoker, veil, and robbing screens and honey supers for all three hives out in my bee yard.  I also brought along a spray bottle of my “special” sugar water laced with spearmint and lemongrass essential oils.  The essential oils are supposed to mimic the pheromones of the Queen, and calm the bees down when they get a bit rowdy.  My take?  If you were just doused with sugar water, would you be calm?  No.  My guess is that this pisses the girls off to no end, but the chore of wiping sugar water out of their little bee eyes and little bee fur, not to mention the fact that it would probably be near impossible to fly with wet, sticky wings, overrules the urge to play kamikaze bee and sting the shit out of me.   Whatever.  It works.

I started my inspection with H1… My research indicated that if a Queen dies or is removed from the hive, and there is brood (babies) that are one to three days old, then the worker bees will raise a queen from this brood.  This whole process is supposed to take 21 days.  I completed my split on March 21st, so using basic math and finally coming up with the fact that there were 36 days from split to inspection, I figured the girls had more than ample time to raise the most glorious of Queens.  I pulled out the first frame.  No brood.  Second.  No brood.  Third, oh shit.   I did notice a Queen cell cup that had been opened up, but no sign of larvae, capped brood, or a Queen in the whole damn hive.  Shit, shit, shit.  Did I perform the split wrong?  Maybe I should stop believing everything that I read on the internet.

My plan of action is this:  I will give the girls one week.  Maybe, just maybe, the girls didn’t realize at first that their Queen had been taken from the hive, and continued on as busy little bees, bringing in the pollen from the abundance of dandelions from my yard.  We have a lot of fucking dandelions.   Maybe, when realizing that she was no longer there, the worker bees sunk into the deepest depression, lamenting around the hive, production coming to a screeching halt.  Maybe they finally snapped out of it, and vowed as a worker bee team that they were going to rise again to my “favorite hive” status.  Or, maybe am just going freaking blind and I couldn’t see the miniscule larvae against the pulled out comb.  Anything is possible.  So, one week.  If during that inspection I still am not able to locate larvae and/or brood, I will pull a couple of frames of brood out of one of my other hives and do another split.  A little incest beekeeping at its best.  Can you hear the banjos playing?

H2… I started my inspection with Brood Box #2 (BB2).  I did mention that my girls are stuck-up and don’t like Plasti-Cell, didn’t I?  I had to scrape off a ton of burr comb (comb that is not built on a foundation, but around it).  The worst was yet to come, however, when I removed BB2, to start my inspection on BB1…. the little elitists disliked the Plasti-Cell foundations so much that they laid their drone (boy bees) in burr comb between the frames in BB1 and BB2!!  I have been taught by older wiser beekeepers, and have read in my many bee books that as beautiful as the burr comb is, you need to remove it.  If not, the bees will continue to make a mess out of the hive box.  What’s so wrong with a messy hive box, you ask?  Well, one, my OCD won’t allow it, but if the bees don’t use the foundation, you can’t stick the frame in an extractor and use centrifugal force to spin out the honey.  You could pull out the comb and do the “crush and strain” method for honey extraction, but then the girls are back to square one, building comb.  Production line slows way down… So…. I committed drone genocide. I scraped the burr comb out of the hive, apologizing profusely to the girls swarming my head, bouncing off my bee veil in their state of fury.  This was my travesty… can you see the drone larvae?!  My heart is breaking…

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Still shaken by my mass killing of 50 + drone bees, I began my inspection of H3.  This hive was actually doing quite well… Both BB1 and BB2 foundations were completely pulled out, I spotted larvae and drone cells and even though these bees started  to install burr comb in between the two boxes like H2, it was not nearly as bad.  I had enough killing for one day, so I left the burr comb and drone cells where they were at.  What?  I’m not Ryan Hardy off The Following.  (OMG, did you see the last epidose?!  Stay on track Cari, stay on track).

I installed a dry Swifter cloth on top of the BB2, and placed a honey super, full of pure beeswax foundation frames on top of that.  This is a new au natural trick that I learned from a FaceBook buddy.  The Swifter dry cloth is comfy enough for a bee to walk over, but a Small Hive Beetle (who can wreck complete havoc on a hive) will get stuck in the fibers.  While I didn’t see any Small Hive Beetles, I figured the application of the cloth in between the brood chamber and honey chamber would act as a sort of Queen Excluder, and no harm, no foul.  (A Queen Excluder is simply what it sounds like – it is a wire mesh that is applied in between the brood and honey super chambers, big enough for the worker bees to fit through, but not the Queen).  I figured with the Swifter cloth, I would have the best of both worlds!

I installed robbing screens on all three hives “Justin Case”.  We really aren’t in the robbing season, but I didn’t want to give one of my bigger, badder hives a reason to pilfer one of their  neighbors’ hive, just because they happen to be a little weaker, or Queenless right now.

It was a very informational inspection over all.  After I had packed up my beelongings and vacated the bee yard, I moseyed back about a hour later, intrigued by how the girls were handling the robbing screens.  I guess I should have installed them when they were all tucked snuggly in their hive for the night.  It looked as if they were struggling with how to enter their own hive.  I had a bright idea…. Since the screens were  mounted in place by a simple piece of wood, I could easily sneak on up, slowly pull the piece of wood out and remove the robbing screens until after nightfall.  This will be cake… Famous last words.

The girls did not think me removing the screen and piece of wood that they diligently had been attempting to gain entrance through for the past hour was cake.  It pissed them off, actually.  Big time.  Bees started bouncing off my forehead, buzzing in my ears, and about five of them lodged themselves in my hair.  Now, I’m not one who gets all creeped out by bugs (obviously), but five pissed off worker bees, who sting to die, nesting themselves in my hair?! I called in the reinforcements.  It was more of a “Marrrr-tinnn!!!  Hellllppp!!, “ with flailing arms and walking in super fast circles.  I’m pretty sure he told me to “hold still” more times than he does Kenzi while doing her hair.  He tried to help them out by way of a piece of paper, but they were burrowing further!  The bees kept burrowing, I kept walking in circles (must have been a sight for the neighbors), until we (the bees and I ) finally gave up and went our separate ways.

Another inspection down, stingless.  You know by saying this, I just signed my own death warrant for next week, right?    

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