So this afternoon met Axel, our bee inspector at the hollow to see what our next step would be.
When I arrived I saw a lot of activity in the hollow still (similar to the night before). It didn’t appear as though they were just robbing the existing comb for the honey and proved that calling Axel for help was the right call.
This is the opened hive at the base of the hollow, note that not all of the frames still have two elastic bands holding in the comb
We inspected the hive and replaced several elastics in order to help the hive to have strong comb they can build on in the new frames. According the Axel, the bees will chew and then dispose of the rubber bands, and they did just that in just a few days.
After a quick inspection, we noticed firstly that we did not see the queen and, that my suspicions were correct, that the bees in the hive box had begun to re-queen.
Regular worker cells are directly into the comb and lay sideways. The queen cells, which there is two of side by side, have been drawn out and elongated in a downward position in order to give the queen sufficient space to grow.
The above queen cells, likely around day six, still have another 1o days until they emerge. Leaving the hive with no additonal brood to be born except existing capped and uncapped brood.
Since the hive is currently queenless, we set up to attempt to remove the queen from the hollow using a handcrafted Bee Vac from Axel’s arsonal of tools. What is a Bee Vac, its similar to what it sounds, its a shop vacuum with boxes meant to surround a brood box to move bees from one spot to another without having to physically touch them.
Bottom portion of the Bee Vac
Above and Below: top portion of the Bee Vac
Assembled Bee Vac unit with a langstroth deep box in the middle.
When Axel looked into the hollow he say a cantoloupe sized ball of bees as well as many bees on the surface of the tree and remaining comb. Sometimes bees will surround the queen for protection, a process called balling, and we were hopefully that the mass of bees did indeed contain the queen. Into the vacuum they went to be bounced up into the empty frames.
Axel also found that the hollow of the tree went up quite farther than I had found (yeah for short arms). Given the depth of the comb and the sheer number of bees, it is estimated this is a two year old hive. At one point towards the end, Axel went to remove additional comb and came out with an arm full of honey. These bees have been super busy.
Unhooking the Bee Vac, getting ready for placement onto the existing hive
I have to say this was super exciting to be apart of. I wanted to take more pictures and be up working in the hollow, but I felt a more experienced Beekeeper would have more success.
Our hope is that we got the queen this time, but we wont know that for a few days depending on if we see new brood being laid in the hive. If we did get the queen, the hive bees will continue to rob the hollow to bring down resources to the hive of bees. If we didn’t get the queen, it’s possible they will abscone back into the hollow and we will repeat this process again.
Please stay tuned for more developments in the coming days.