“Sisters function as safety nets in a chaotic world simply by being there for each other.”~
The heat has arrived in Perth and boy, did we feel it at our scheduled bee inspection yesterday. Despite arriving at 8 am, it was already 30 degrees celsius.
The ladies were cranky. We were sweaty. It wasn’t pretty.
The last hive we inspected was mine. I currently have one 10 frame full depth brood box with two ezi-lift (8 frame, full depth) supers stacked on top.
We inspect every fortnight to ensure our hives don’t swarm. A few weeks ago, my hive re-Queened itself.
I’ll elaborate in a future post how I maintain my hives, but I introduce all new frames into my brood box and rotate frames of sealed brood from the brood box, above the queen excluder into the first honey super.
This process ensures my Queen always has lovely fresh comb to lay in, which I believe, is her preference.
The aim is to ensure the brood box never becomes crowded. The sealed brood hatch above the queen excluder and those empty drawn frames are filled with nectar by the foraging bees. I then harvest fully capped honey frames from the top, the third super.
The trick, of course, is to shake all the bees off the frame back into the brood box and then inspect the sealed brood frame thoroughly to ensure you aren’t rotating the Queen into the honey super. Incidentally, if you are looking for the Queen, the first place to look would be the freshest frame of drawn comb. Nine times out of ten, she’s there.
It’s a great system, I’ve never had a hive swarm. I don’t end up with grubby, dirty combs and the Queen and bees are happy.
Except for yesterday, because it was so hot.
So we take off the top super and find two frames of ripe honey to harvest. We remove the third super and move onto the second super, above the queen excluder.
We had rotated the Queen above the excluder. There were fresh eggs and larvae where the honey should have been.
This was going to be a headache. The Queen was not where she was meant to be. Technically, she could be anywhere in the top two supers. Indeed, we may have already shaken her off a honey frame.
I removed the second super, peeled back the queen excluder and began to inspect the brood box, expecting to find frames void of eggs or larvae. Meanwhile, Melissa was lifting out the frames of the honey supers and inspecting them…
There was larvae and eggs in the brood box too.
Then Melissa exclaimed,
“HERE SHE IS!”
She had found the Queen living above the queen excluder.
And for a moment we paused. Could it be? Did we have sister Queens on our hands?
Sister Queens are when two Queens hatch, successfully mate and co-exist together in the same hive. We first encountered sister Queens when our local bee supply shop had two Queens in their observation hive.
The owner of the store explained that while sister Queens were a bit unusual, they weren’t entirely uncommon. As long as there was enough nectar and pollen and room, sister Queens could rule the hive together quite happily.
We decided to drop the frame with the honey super Queen back into the brood box.
It occurred to us on the drive home that perhaps the Queen is escaping her excluder and traveling between supers, but frankly, that seems unlikely. But we didn’t see the other Queen laying in the brood box, so it can’t be discounted as a possibility.
And now I am not entirely sure what to do next.
Do I leave them be? Bump one off lest she decides to swarm with half the hive? Or do I split the hive and make the most of the opportunity?
If you have any ideas or experience, I’d love to hear from you!