It was a weekend full of highs and lows around the old farmhouse. The swarm we had tried to capture last week (details here) was a bust; most likely, the queen drowned. A small cluster returned to a higher spot in the willow, over the pond again, but scattered a day later after realizing their queen wasn't around. The warm spring we've been experiencing has driven many queens around here to swarm, it's a natural occurrence, and some say, is nature's way of reproducing hives. Good for the bees, not so good for the beekeeper. I still wanted to see whether it was possible to make a split of the hive. I had already ordered a queen for a new hive but now that the original queen had left the scene, wouldn't I need to replace her instead? My beekeeping mentor, Bill, graciously came around Saturday morning to help me with a hive inspection.
I removed the cover and we pulled one frame, then the next. Everything appeared in order, the queenless bees were still calm; a good sign, Bill indicated. Fourth frame in we hit pay dirt. Prior to swarming, the old queen had prepared the hive for her departure by leaving queen cells in the hive and not just one either, we counted at least fourteen queen cells ready to offer a new replacement queen. These queen cells are made when the hive is in panic mode, the queen is ready to leave with a portion of her workers and find a new home and replacements are quickly made for the hive to be at the ready and to have as little downtime as possible for without a queen, no eggs are laid and no new bees are being made to replace the older bees. When there's less of a panic mode, however, supersedure cells are made and we were quite happy to find two frames with supercedure cells. From what I understand these queens are generally hardier and a better choice in becoming the next queen. No sooner had we found these cells, a queen begin to emerge from one right before us. I stood in awe as I watched our replacement queen being born! We removed a frame with more queen cells and a frame with brood and placed them into a new hive box. Within a day or two, one of the queens should emerge and our second hive will be underway.
What happens to the rest of the queens as they hatch? Bill explained to me that when it comes to queens, the first one out is the winner. As we watched my new queen emerge, worker bees quickly began to rub her belly in order to pick up her pheromone or scent and spread it throughout the hive. By doing so, the other bees in the hive will quickly know the scent of their new queen and as other queens emerge they will be killed by the new queen. It was a happy morning to have not only my hive back with a new queen but a second one with a queen-in-waiting too.
Sunday afternoon, the male twin went out to the coop to check on the chicks. He quickly came back to tell me he knew which one was the runt of the flock. "Pardon?" was all I could say. "One of the chicks is outside and it's head is all bloody," he replied. I ran out to the coop to find one of our Barred Rock chicks in serious distress. It was rather horrific; I'll spare you the details but we are one chick less at the old farmhouse this morning and we are all heartbroken to have experienced our first livestock loss here.
Our first broody mama and Laurie have been accepted by Eli and the other two hens and spend the day foraging with them. The other broody hen, hatched two babies last week and is sharing the coop and outdoor pen with the rest of the incubator chicks. At a week old mama hen takes her chick outside and teaches them to scratch and peck but the other chicks have remained in their indoor pen, except for one and that obviously didn't fare well. I can only think that she sees these three week old chicks as a threat to her one week old chicks but the older chicks need to begin exploring outside. We'll try to rig something up to separate them in the pen but for now, the chicks have the run of the coop, mama and her two babies have the run of the pen outside and the rest follow Eli all around the yard. And just to keep things interesting around here, twelve New Hampshires and two Chanteclers are due to hatch this weekend. And that my friends is the last of chick rearing for this year!
A mix of sun and clouds.
All part of life, and certainly a part of farm life.
~Bee well friends~