Or so it seems this year. Of course, 2008-2009 was the winter than never seemed to end.
Supered most of the hives, which is quite early for our area. Found one “oh oh” hive. The ladies had built four queen cells. Not swarm cells, but supercedure cells. So, the queen has died within the past week, or, more likely, is on her way out, and the bees know it. It’s the pheromones. When a queen is not able to lay enough eggs to benefit the hive, it apparently shows in the pheromones and the workers start to build new queens.
All of this is perfectly natural, and would be fine if it were 3 weeks from now. The problem? None of the capped drones in my other, near-by bee yards will be ready for mating when the new queen will be taking her mating flights. No boys – no sex – no eggs.
Best plan is to pop in a frame of eggs from another hive in about a week, in hopes the girls will once again build queen cells – the queens from those should be at about the right age for the drones now maturing. We shall see.
It’s one of the interesting things about beekeeping – the every changing challenges of farming wild animals who one doesn’t want to disturb very often. It is said that each time you “open” your hive (go through it for an inspection) you set your bees back one week. Thus it’s not something you want to do often. Makes life interesting in the bee yard.