Monday, October 4, 2010

My Sadness As A Beekeeper/Drone Laying Queens

I noticed something wasn't quite right with my two Nucleus (Nuc) hives that I had started a while back, so I went in for a check. At first glance I could see that there was WAY too many drones. I found the queen in each hive and she looked fine and I saw eggs, but what I found next was very disturbing. All of the brood was drone brood. Male honeybees.......this is NOT good in a hive. I had queens that had not been mated. Their eggs were not fertile and they could only produce male offspring. I had to make a very difficult decision. The queen had to be replaced :( I love my queens and I love seeing the new little hatchlings scurrying around on the comb looking in the cells to lay eggs. They are so sweet.Can you see that there are more drones than workers? The drones(males) are much larger and have bigger eyes than the workers (females)
In this picture below you can see the drone cells, there isn't any worker cells at all. Drone cells are bullet shaped and protrude up higher from the comb. Worker cells are even with the comb. If not caught the hive will perish, the males will eat them out of house and home, so to speak. Drones do not forage and they bring nothing to the hive to eat. They are just there to mate with queen bees. This was my dilemma, I had thought that if the hive had drones that a queen would mate. Please don't make that thoughtful mistake, a queen has to be in flight in order to mate.
This brings me to the reason "why" I had two drone laying queens. Those that follow this blog, will remember that I had a queen that had her right wings chewed from her sister that hatched before her. I called her my "Wingless" Queen, I thought I would be able to keep her and she would have her very own hive, that was not a good thing. Her fate had been sealed when she lost her wings before hatching.
The only reason I can think of that the second hive had a drone queen was because during her hatch we had some bad weather at that time, a lot of wind and rain and she wasn't able to fly during the night to mate. Or, if she did mate there wasn't enough drones in the mix. A queen needs to mate with at least 20 drones in order to have enough sperm to be fertile. This, I have read, is enough to last, she won't mate again.

I had to remove the queens, I pulled frames of fresh eggs from one of my favorite hives and placed them in each Nuc. They pulled out queen cells and now have new baby queens.....I do hope they mated. I'm thankful that the warmth has stayed here on us, even though the nights are cooling off, hopefully the queens have made their nuptial flight and will be able to produce big strong hives this coming spring.......only time will tell.

Until next time.......