My Honey Bee Queen is………. DEAD!

014I 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.

Drawn out comb filled with nectar or brood.

Drawn out comb filled with nectar or brood.

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.033

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”036


29 thoughts on “My Honey Bee Queen is………. DEAD!

  1. How interesting! I never contemplated what it might be like to lose a Queen bee.
    Also, you’ve got some great recipe’s i’ve got to try!
    I recently started my own blog here, and I have to say, you’re doing a great job. I’ve got to follow you now.
    Not to mention, it’s nice to follow a fellow Redditor.


  2. Oh that is so sad about your Queen Bee. I wish I could wrap up the lady that decided to take refuge in one of our trees. We had a swarm of bees in the yard one morning. We brought all the cats inside for the day. My husband went out to check on things later in the day and they seemed to have disappeared. The a few weeks passed and he heard a noise and could not figure out where it was coming from.
    I walked all around the yard and realized that the bees had made their home in our tree and that is where the noise was coming from. I contacted a local bee keeper and store owner and he told me the only way to get the bees out would be to cut down the tree. Well that is definitely not in the plan so there they are doing there things and happily making their honey.
    I hope all goes well with your new plan.

    Take care, Kim

  3. Losing a queen happens, occasionally. It could be that your strong hive decided to swarm and a new queen, that would normally head the swarm, fought with the old queen and the old queen died.

    We have been keeping bees for over 40 years and have never had any major problems. Then, last year we lost 4 hives to Colony Collapse and this year we lost our last 4 hives – which had been four hive bodies strong, to CCD. We are surrounded by corn and soybean farmers and believe that the deaths of our hives was due to the wonderful chemicals
    found in the Monsanto and Beyer products that the farmers use.

    You did exactly the right thing to save your hives by combining them. You might also want to feed them sugar water to be sure they have enough honey to last them the winter.

    • Hi B.,
      Thanks for your comments. I am sorry to hear about your losses. It must be terribly frustrating to know that these chemicals are causing your colonies to collapse. Thanks for the advice on feeding. We started right after the hives were successfully combined.

  4. I hope it is successful. So sorry to hear about the Queen! I wonder if they did have a funeral procession? lol! I remember having one as a child when my pet bunny died. Thanks for sharing with SYC.

  5. Very interesting read. And bravo to you both for doing all you can. As I understand it, we are losing our bees at an alarming rate, so any and all efforts to help them thrive is to be commended. I read about bee keeping in the Ringing Cedars first book…it does seem fascinating.

  6. CB, Sorry about your queen. Your postings are always interesting and very informative. I live in Central Louisiana and because of our semi warm winters we have something blooming almost year round. It is not unusual to see bees out foraging in December. (Lots of years we wear shorts on Christmas day.) But, for the last few years we are lucky if we have bees in the garden in the spring and summer. Not only are the bees disappearing, but the butterflies and other beneficial insects as well. I am 73 and have seen many wonderful things in my journey through life, but I am very saddened at the way our land is being poisoned today. Keep up your good work with your blog. I do so enjoy reading what you and the other bloggers write about the experiences you have on your small farms. It brings back many wonderful memories of my childhood and being raised on a small farm. I would love to start a blog but have no idea on how to go about doing that. jb

    • Hi Joyce,
      Thanks for your thoughtful comments. I remember wearing shorts one Christmas years ago, but I think it had something to do with too much eggnog. AS for the bees, we continue to help them out as best we can.

  7. I’m really sorry 😦 This is one of the more difficult aspects of homesteading that people don’t often talk about. Thanks for sharing this with us at the Home Acre Hop. We always look forward to having you share.

  8. I sure hope this works for you and glad that you have someone to work with and in a timely manner! I do appreciate you sharing with Home and Garden Thursday,

  9. Wow…I know that bees are crucial to maintaining our way of life (and I love me some raw honey for eating and DIY projects), but I never once contemplated what goes on inside of a colony. I really hope that they ‘take’ to each other and become one colony.

    You’ve been sharing at *Mostly* Homemade Mondays for a while now. I always love to see what you bring by. I’ll be looking for an update re: the combining of colonies!

    I like this post so much (it’s very informative and I think that more people should think about these things), I’ll be featuring it tomorrow as one of my favorite posts from last week.

    Feel free to drop by tomorrow morning and grab a button for your blog and share some more great posts with all of us.


  10. So how did the merger go? My husband and I just moved to a 5 acre farm and we are thinking of trying bees as well. Trying to get very educated before we start as we personally know folks who are having a very hard time with it.

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