I went around the hives this week under a glowering sky. Mostly, just a peak at the top bars to judge the bees’ build up.
My only concern is the hive that decided to build queen cells a few weeks ago. At least one queen emerged about 10 days back: into a world where there are no drones flying and the weather is rather damp. If the queen did make a mating flight, I doubt she would have found drones (males). Without a mated queen, the hive will die.
My solution: to find a near-by hive with a frame of eggs and larvae to “spare”. A week ago, that was not available. Although the other hives showed signs of good laying, I felt there weren’t enough frames of eggs to spare one for my needy hive. This time eggs were available.
The frame I pulled this week had both eggs and larvae. With luck – there is a lot of luck in beekeeping – the girls will choose some larvae of the right age. The best queens come from 24-hour-old larvae (4 days after its egg was laid). If the bees don’t fancy any of the larvae available, then the eggs should hatch soon and provide them with new larvae from which to select their future queen. That queen should emerge at the correct time: when the drones are flying.
If the queen who did emerge manages to mate, which is doubtful, the donated eggs and larvae will simply become more workers for that hive.
There is a lot of “if’s” and “should’s” involved in all this. “Luck” plays a big part in beekeeping.
The bees, with luck, will build queen cells around a few of the chosen larvae. If they have chosen larvae that just hatched, 12 days later the queen(s) should emerge. Things can go wrong at this stage – as with all life, not every creature develops normally.
If all goes well, one queen will emerge. And she will promptly kill the other queens. If they are still in their queen cells, she will chew through the sides to open their cells prematurely. If two queens emerge, then they will fight to the death. Does the best queen win? Not always.
Now the weather comes into play. 2 to 4 days after she emerges the queen will start her mating flights; if weather permits. If it’s too wet or windy, she’ll just sit out the weather. But if she sits it out for 3 days, she’s not going to mate. In this area, we can have day after day of foul weather.
If the weather is good, she still has to find the guys. If no drones (males) are flying, then there will be no mating.
If she’s a healthy queen, and the weather is fine, and the drones are waiting in near-by congregation areas, she will mate and begin to lay eggs.
21 days will now have now passed since the frame of eggs and larvae were put into the queenless hive. If all went well, eggs should be seen. If not, the entire process starts all over again (or one could order a queen from a queen breeder).
One could purchase a queen from a queen breeder, but raising “local” stock is always my first choice. They are more adapted to the plants and weather of our area. I do this in 2 ways: either I give them some eggs & larvae and let them raise their own, or by using starters and finishers with vertical Hopkins frames – but that’s a whole other discussion.