Singing the dead queen blues
My oh my, such drama. I have two hives, started from nucs that I received June 24th. We've had awful weather for the past two months, cold and wet for the most part, not normal. To cut a long story short, my beek mentor thinks it will be good if we can get each hive to fill out one deep, and then we are going to overwinter both hives in my barn. My goal right now is just to get them through to next spring. At this time last year, my mentor had drawn 4,000 lbs of honey from 39 hives. This year? NADA. That tells you how bad the season is.
My mentor also came over last week and looked at my hives for me. The hive that seemed a bit weaker (and has never taken any sugar syrup) has a new queen who hasn't started laying yet but otherwise looks fine. She was busily checking out cells when we saw her. My mentor thought she was a bigger and better-looking queen than the one he supplied me with. Supersedure!
The other hive has seemed to be doing better since the start, more activity, more brood, more pollen going in and out. Funny, since that nuc came on three frames while the "weaker" nuc came on four.
Last night, I went down to add some drawn comb to the hives (as per mentor's instructions, and that's another story.) All went well with the first hive (the "weaker" one with the new queen.) But when I opened the second hive, the queen and her attendants were sitting right on top of the frames! I was very glad to see her but didn't want to disturb her. (I have since talked to my mentor and know what to do to move a queen.) I was extremely careful replacing the top so as not to squish her.
I went back this morning to put the drawn comb in hive, and what do I see but a dying queen, right on the ground under the hive entrance. She had one worker fussing over her on the ground. She expired completely while I was there. I brought her poor corpse back to the house with me. I have a microscope and I want to have a look at her... fascinating!
I opened up that hive but decided not to mess around putting in frames of drawn comb, because frankly, the bees sounded pissed off (which makes sense if their queen just snuffed it.) Their buzzing sounded different to me from the other times I've gone in, i. e. annoyed. Also there's supposed to be a thunderstorm this afternoon, even though the weather right now is not bad.
So what gives? Do you think the queen dying on the ground outside this morning was the same queen I saw just yesterday around suppertime? Or was the one I saw on the frames last night a new queen who superseded the one I found dying on the ground (although I can't imagine it would take her 14 hours to die.) I was so careful putting the board back on last night, I can't imagine I injured her, and the body looks pristine to me. All very mysterious to me.
My bees apparently like to give me challenges!