Monday, May 14, 2012

Releasing the Queen

Last Friday afternoon Sarah and I checked the hive to ensure the queen had been successfully released from the queen cage.   It had been 5 days since we installed the package.  The weather wasn't exactly cooperating.  It was only about 55 deg F, but it was only supposed to get colder over the weekend, and we needed to make sure she was out, or free her ourselves.   You see, the queen needs to start laying eggs as soon as possible because the clock is ticking on all the other bees.  For the colony to succeed she needs to replace the dying bees, plus make more to build up the hive.

We suited up, lit the smoker, lit the smoker again, worked the bellows, and lit the smoker again (apparently this is a learned skill).

We went out to the hive, checked the feeder (still good) and noticed there weren't any bees flying around.  Hoping this was due to the weather, we started smoking the hive.  A couple of puffs in the entrance, a couple of puffs through the inner cover, and we opened her up.

The bees only covered a few frames, but they had started to build comb, which meant that hopefully there was some comb available for the queen to lay eggs in already.  I pulled the queen cage out, and while there were bees in it, none of them were the queen.  Yes, freedom!

Due to the weather, we didn't want to pull out frames with bees on them just to look for the queen, especially since I don't think we would have been able to spot any eggs yet anyway.  Eggs are hard enough for experienced beekeepers to see, much less newbies like us.

We verified the queen was free, the bees were building comb, and then we closed it up again.  We placed the queen cage at the entrance to let the bees inside crawl out, and made sure the smoker was out (no problem there).  Dick (the guy who's property the hive is on) said the temp dropped and it started snowing about an hour after we left.  Three inches.  Only in Colorado.

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