Monday, November 16, 2009

The Citrus Queen

This post is about a hive that the President of our local beekeepers association rescued from a citrus tree in someones back yard and a delima that we were facing.
We had originally thought that one of our major hives was in trouble and was without a queen. When we went into them about a month ago for winter preparation we noticed a lot of queen cells pulled out on most of the frames.......further inspection revealed no queen. We went into a bit of panic because a hive cannot survive without their queen and this is NOT the time of year this sort of thing needs to happen. We weren't able to make a complete inspection of all the queen cells because of the weather. Some of the cells had been sealed over on the inside and some of them just hadn't been completed but we didn't look at all of them.....lesson learned. Apparently at least one of the cells we "didn't look at" was sealed with a queen growing inside, meanwhile we had called our local Pres. beekeeper and he told us we were in luck, he had a small hive we could have.
It was raining when we picked up the small hive and brought them home after dark. The next day it was still raining off and on so we went in between clouds and put a screen wire (recommendation of the pres.) over the top of the hive that was "queen less", then placed the new hive on top of the screen. Now, if you've read my bee blogs you will remember when I combined two hives into one over the summer, but on that combination I used paper, a method that I had read about. This method with the screen wire was a life saver! But, at the time we didn't realize just how much! The reason you put a barrier between the two is so they can get used to the scent of each other and the queens pheromones can travel through to the "queen less" colony, therefore acceptance will be more likely.
After about a week we went back to see if they were ready to combine........I caught the citrus queen in a queen catcher to protect her because we just weren't sure what the reaction from queen less hive would be. One reason is because the queen less hive is a double hive meaning that it was possible that the bees in the bottom box had not made contact with the upper box and would possibly kill the new queen. So I placed the citrus queen at the entrance of the bottom box to see if they would except her........they didn't! The guard bees jumped on the catcher and started attacking it. I immediately took her away and got the guard bees off and put her back in with her hive......we were totally at a loss as what to do. Lucky for us it was still early in the a.m. and it was a beautiful sunny 80 degree day, perfect for getting into a hive! We moved and securely covered the citrus tree hive then went into the "queen less" hive because things just weren't right with them.
One of the first things we noticed, there were no queen cells to be found on the frames that previously had quite a few.......we know what that means......there was a new queen running around in our "queen less"hive......and we found her!! We were soo delighted!
We have gotten so attached to the bees, they are such a huge part of our lives now. We worry too much about them sometimes and we become afraid for them when it seems harm may come to them....well, I feel like I'm talking about my sons as well! LOL I guess when we love something, anything.....we get attached and worry, worry, worry. The honeybees are in such trouble all over the world right now and if we don't worry and try our best to take care of them then they will no longer "bee"here....then we are next.This is the picture where the honeybees built their hive on the citrus tree. The white stuff is the comb that they store honey and brood in. It is truly beautiful. I am amazed at the different colors of comb that they produce. It depends on the age of the bee. I have seen a fairly new hatchling have wax coming from the minute slits on the sides of her abdomen, it's pure white and sometimes looks like crystals. New pure white wax grows darker over time and the more it's used by the bees. Some frames of wax that we have in the hives looks and smells like creamy butter, (sometimes I think it's my imagination) but really if you close your eyes it does smell like creamy graham crackers, it smells so good.
The rest of these pictures are of the citrus queen and her girls. Can you see her? Look at the end of the tweezers. Look at how dark she is, most of her girls are dark or black. They seem way more calm than the Italian bees. Most of them look like Italian honey bees. This could just be an older hive. Honey bees grow darker the older they get, but we have seen in some of our calmer hives, "newbees" that are dark in color. Not sure what type they are. It depends on what breed of drone the queen mated with.

In the upper picture she is lowering her abdomen into a cell to lay an egg.
Here she is again pulling out from the cell just after laying the egg in the upper picture. Can you pick her out? She looks disconnected, but she's looking into another cell to see if it's ready for an egg.
Feel free to leave a comment, question or complaint, I love feedback. It always helps to know what readers see or think.
Thank you for dropping by, please come back.
Until next time.........
Bee alert :0)


  1. Julie, those are some GREAT pictures! And it's a good thing you are so worried for your bees - you've managed to save and care for so many now. How many hives do you have now? Oh, and so you just removed the smaller hive you had placed on the one that you found the queen in? Is that smaller hive still doing well too?

  2. Six now but if we get to keep the small (citrus)hive it will be seven. We need to get back in touch with the beekeeper we got them from to see if he wants them back. And yes, they are doing great. the last two pictures are of them once we got them back into my front yard and I was putting them back into their Nuc box the next day. I was soo happy to see her because I wasn't sure if the "attack" had hurt her or not.
    I can't see through my suit when I'm taking pictures (actually at any time) lol so I was really pleased at how the last two pictures turned out, I didn't know what she was doing when I snapped the pics. Oh, Penny click to enlarge the last photo, I didn't notice it til after I you see something a worker bee is doing over to the bottom left of the pic?
    I'll "bee" posting about that real soon!

  3. OHMYGOSH! Is that bad little girl laying an egg????

  4. Thats what it looks like doesn't it!!! A whole new post to blog about!!