Scattered capped brood cells
Beeman assessing frames before splitting the hives
Saturday I was able to observe Beeman, my mentor extraordinaire, split and requeen his two overwintered hives.
One was visibly weakened with a reduced population and no evidence of new brood formation (eggs, larvae, etc.) - characteristics of a hive without its queen. The other had an active, large population but seemed loud and disorganized. There were scattered capped brood cells but no visible eggs or larvae, which indicates a queen was present recently, but is either failing or missing entirely. A hive without a queen has no direction and certainly no future.
This presented a good opportunity to make splits – creating additional hives by redistributing frames of brood and honey among new boxes to equalize the strength of all hives.
A caged queen marked with yellow
A queen awaiting her fate
With two hives split into four, it was time to introduce the new queens. In each hive, a cage was wedged between two frames and instantly covered by curious bees. Separated from her new subjects by a small candy plug, the queen must wait several days to be released. As the bees chew through the plug they are exposed to her pheromones and everyone slowly gets acquainted as the candy is devoured. By the time the queen gains her freedom and enters the hive for the first time, she has hopefully been accepted as the new leader.
Long live the queen!