Today with the warm temperature I decided to inspect my two Russian/Carniolian hives. I have been very concerned if they were going to make it through the winter or not.
General note: at the time of the inspection there were a lot of bees flying around, hovering and clustering along the seams of the boxes and hive tops. No fighting noted at the entrances. Not sure if it is robbing or what. It seems that during my inspection things got more out of hand. There were lots of bees flying around and crawling on the open boxes. In retrospect it was probably bad timing on my part. Chalk up one more lesson for a newbie.
First I removed the honey super, set it aside with the bee escape to clear out the bees. The Bee-pro patty that I left between the super and top brood box is untouched. I worked my way through the upper brood box checking frame by frame. It is about half full of capped honey and there are several frames of open honey or nectar. The lower brood box is very light. There is no brood or eggs anywhere. I found the queen walking around on an empty frame with no attendants or anything around. I put her frame back in the box and continued removing frames, brushing off dead bees and scraping the propolis off of the frame rests and reinstalling them. I moved the box off of the slatted rack so I could dump off the dead bees, chewed cappings and scrapings from the bottom board. As I was reassembling the hive I noticed a cluster of bees next to the hive on the hive stand. It was the queen surrounded by several attendants.
I used the bee brush to sweep her into the telescoping cover so I could dump her back into the hive. I watched as she went in and out of the tops of several frames before taking off flying out of sight. I am not sure if this hive will now be queenless. I checked the hive later in the afternoon and there were a lot of bees all over the hive trying to get in and there was fighting going on at the entrance reducer. This evening things are settling down. I noticed some bees taking off out of the hive and heading away from the hive. I am guessing that maybe the bees were somewhat able to defend their entrance when I first started working the hive. However, once I started opening thing up it was on and the robbing kicked in. Hopefully now that the robbers have returned to their hives with the booty my hive will be able to defend the reduced entrance again. I will no doubt start feeding if the hive gets too light.
Now what about my queen? Will she find her way back or is she gone? She came with a package so I do not know if she knows her way around or not (or if that matters). I guess I will not know until I do another inspection in a couple of weeks. Maybe at that time I can open up my other hive and if there is eggs I can swap a frame. Otherwise I am tempted to order a replacement package for installation in April. Perhaps a queen sooner? What are your recommendations on where to go from here?