Drama in a Small Space

The beehive kindly hosted by W. 104 St. Garden was installed on 11 May in the back of the east section of the garden. I started with 10,000 bees and a queen in a 10-frame hive box. The queen started laying eggs immediately, and the hive was more developed than I expected after only 2 weeks. I reported to a June 8th meeting of garden members that the hive was prospering and was showing signs of a strong beginning. There was plenty of capped brood (developing bee) cells, lots of open cells containing nectar that is processed into honey by the bees, and capped honey cells.

As the hive continued to develop, I added 2 more 10-frame boxes to accommodate the growth in bee population and honey storage. A second queen bee was spotted by a friend who came by to observe my hive inspection. We did not know if she was laying eggs but the marked queen who came with the bees in May (marked with a blue spot on her head) was active and there was no problem leaving the two queens in the hive. There are several photos of this queen on a frame on the garden website, taken by a garden member who happened by when I was there.

When a fellow beekeeper reported she could not find her marked queen, I offered my second queen with the understanding that the final decision depended upon my marked queen continuing her good performance. The beekeeper and I captured my second queen, who was placed in the new hive where she started laying eggs right away. Unfortunately, a week later I discovered there was no queen in my hive; I don’t know what happened to my marked queen. On Aug. 3, we spent 3 1/2 hours checking for queens in the other hive but the new queen was not there. Drama in a small space

My new queen, with her attendants, has just arrived by mail, graciously purchased by an interested garden member. She will go into the hive in her queen cage this evening (8/7/13), and I will release her into the hive in a couple of days after the bees have gotten used to her. We hope she will be accepted as well as the first queen, and that she will begin laying eggs very soon. Bees only live about 6 weeks in the summer so constant production of new bees is important. Keeping up with honey production is also important because all the honey produced in the bottom three boxes is needed to feed the bees over the winter.

I was told that garden members rarely see much action around a hive. That’s pretty much how bees are. Throughout the day they go on forage flights, returning with pollen and nectar. Guard bees (bees with an attitude as our instructor described them) defend the entrance against intruders but the hive entrance faces the back fence. When the hive is too hot, thousands of bees may spread out on the outside of the hive boxes, but the garden location is nice and shady so the hive has remained comfortable even in the hottest weather. Bees fly out when it is light, and go home in the evening. The drama is in the internal dynamics that are not visible to the casual observer. Also, bees can fly 2+ miles to forage so while I expect them to be in the garden, they go where the best nectar is, which may vary over the season. And nearby Central Park offers a diverse smorgasbord of bee food so I’m sure they are foraging there as well.

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