Yes, it has been a month since I wrote here in the bee blog, and there is a good reason. I was really confused about what was happening to Thelma's hive, and I didn't want to write any wild guesses or wrong information here... I just wanted to write the whole story down once it was resolved. In short, Thelma is gone, and we have replaced her with a new queen, Eleanor, named after Eleanor Roosevelt.
Here's what I think happened: Last post I wrote about all of these blunders I made in my inspection in May, and it may have been worse than I thought. I think that the queen who fell on the ground was actually Thelma, not Louise as I assumed, and I am guessing that I led her right to her execution. :( I picked her up and put her into Louise's hive entrance and they probably killed her. Otherwise, I don't know what might have happened to Thelma, but she was definitely not alive in her hive... no eggs were being laid and her hive was queenless.
Queenless hives can often grow some of their remaining young eggs into new queens by feeding them royal jelly, but they seemed to not have clued into their plight. After some consulting with my beekeeping friend Jim, we tried moving a frame of Louise's fresh eggs over to Thelma's hive to give them another chance. They still didn't grow any new queens...
Unless I re-queened the hive, they would die out quickly. I got a queen from my friends at BeeWeaver Apiaries, and you can see Eleanor here (click for a larger view). A queen arrives in a cage that is plugged up with candy, giving the bees a few days to acclimate to the new queen's scent before they eat through the plug and release her.
I held my breath for a few days and checked on them last Friday, and YAY!!! Eleanor was accepted and she was laying new eggs left and right. Today I did another inspection and she was still going strong.
I am super-proud of the beekeeping mojo it took to keep this hive alive despite my blunders, and so relieved to report this story positively here at the end of the drama!
We're in a terrible drought in Texas right now, and bees are suffering. (Read here what Round Rock Honey just said about raising their prices, etc. because of it.) One of the ways we support the bees is by feeding them sugar syrup. I am checking on them weekly and making sure they have syrup, but they are not drinking it up very fast and it seems like they are doing okay. There are tons of crepe myrtle blooming around here and I think they are thriving on it. I added a 3rd super (another level, another wooden box) to both hives today! (click this photo to enlarge it) Now the hives are pretty tall, especially when you include the 4th box where the pail feeder is enclosed. See here for a photo of when they first started to compare with now!
Many of their frames are quite heavy with honey. Here is a photo of some capped honey, how exciting! This honey belongs to them, however. We will not harvest any for ourselves until there is a surplus.
Today when I put on the 3rd super, I used a queen excluder grid between the 2nd and 3rd levels. That way the queen cannot get up there to lay eggs, and the 3rd super on up will be ALL HONEY, no brood. Those are the supers we will harvest from later on. Here is a photo of the queen excluder before I put everything back together (click photo to enlarge).
In the meantime, everybody seems happy and healthy, and in other news, I got my first bee sting when I was installing Eleanor. Yes, that's right, I had never in my life been stung by a bee before, and it was my first time! I was stung on the hand when I bumped somebody (was not wearing gloves because it was a short visit). It was inevitable and I am glad it finally happened.
OK, we're all caught up! I will be more regular here now that this mystery/drama is behind us and everyone is back to somewhat normal. I hope you enjoyed the story!