I should have heard them screaming that the Queen was Dead. I should have seen that the flag was at half mast beside the hive. I should have been there as the funeral procession exited the hive and their little bee heads hung in grief when they carried their beloved Queen to her final resting place. I should have noticed, but…………… I wasn’t there. Maybe I was back at home in the City. Maybe I was up at the cottage sitting on the dock sipping beer from a local micro-brewery. Either way, it didn’t matter. I wasn’t at the hive. Not that I really could have done much. It’s not like I could have saved her. I don’t even know why she died or how she died………. I just know she’s………. dead……(A momentary pause for dramatic effect!)
So….maybe you’re asking yourself how I knew for certain that the hive was queenless? I knew I was in trouble yesterday afternoon as soon as I took the first frame out of the hive. There was no brood to be found anywhere in the comb. There were plenty of bees, lots of pollen and even some honey, but no brood to be found. Considering that a Queen can lay upwards of 1000 eggs each day, you’d think that I’d find some brood tucked away in that comb. Take a look at the picture below. It is from my hive in July. If you look carefully at the yellow circled frames, you will see brood tucked into the comb. They look like fat white grubs.
Anyways, I continued to inspect each frame with the same dismal results. Zilch, Nadda, Niente! I couldn’t believe my luck. First, I couldn’t get a mated Queen until early July because there was such a shortage this year in Northern Ontario. Now, she up and died, leaving thousands of bees without a Queen. But worst of all, Fall has begun and the hive Will Not survive without a Queen to produce the Winter Bees who will carry the hive through the cold months ahead. So…..if I don’t do something soon, I’ll be starting again from square one next Spring. But, it isn’t not only for me that I must find a solution…….it is also for the remaining bees that will need my help.
It turns out that one of Dan’s hives (my mentor) has been suffering this year and it is having trouble building up to a strong colony. It too, would not survive the harsh Northern Ontaio Winter. After sitting down in the apiary together and discussing our individual delemas, we decided to combine our hives in order to make one strong hive that still had time to learn to get along and become one happy colony. After taking a quick look through Bee Keeping For Dummies, we confirmed our plan of attack and thus was born our attempt at the newspaper method.
According to Howland Blackiston “ you can’t just dump the bees from one hive into another. If you do, all hell will break loose. Two colonies must be combined slowly and systematically so that the hive odors merge gradually. This is best done late in the summer or early in the autumn”.
Well……I guess are timing was good because we got the early autumn part right. Now, we just had to move my hive into Dan’s weaker, but Queen maintained, hive. So I took the cover off of my hive and began shaking the bees off of the honey bee frames that were in the top hive body (the upper box). In doing so, my bees would drop down into the lower hive body which was the one that would be placed on Dan’s hive.. Believe it or not, we did this process without even using the smoker to help keep the bees calm.
Next, the hive cover was taken off of Dan’s hive and a single sheet of newspaper was placed on top of his top hive body. I then cut a few slits in the newspaper which would act as the innitial passageway between the 2 hives. In doing so,the hive odors from each hive would “slowly and systematically” begin to merge together.
Once this was done, the hive cover was then placed on top of the new combined hive.
According to Blackiston, , the bees should chew through the newspaper in about a week and Dan & I should have a ” happily joined into one whacking strong colony”.
Well……“whacking strong” seems pretty impressive from where I stand. I’ll shoot for strong and hope for the best. “Hey Dan………..what part of the newspaper did we put on the hive? I hope it was something interesting because them there bees are gonna’ be doing some recreational reading for the next 7 days. I just hope it wasn’t the obituary section”