I got a call on Tuesday that the queen breeder had 2 of the queens I wanted available now instead of in June. Did I want them? Why, yes, yes I do. I began my search for the old queens that afternoon. The nail polish I'd marked them with was gone so I had to search each hive frame by frame. This is much like playing where's Waldo. You look for the difference in shapes and sped. I found one and quickly trapped it behind an queen excluder (a screen used to keep the queen from lying eggs in your honey surplus) and the end of the hive.
On Weds finding the queen in the other hive was a real learning experience to say the least. The bees in that hive had taken a vote and decided the existing queen wasn't doing the job and disposed of her. In her place they built a peanut shaped queen cell and started raising a replacement queen. When I came looking for the queen, I found the empty queen cell and a small, young queen. The queen wasn't even laying eggs yet. I suspect the hive had been without a lying queen for 7 to 10 days. Not good. From egg to bee takes 21 days and a gap in the timeline can be disastrous. In this case the bees set up a Catch 22 in that the forager bees kept bringing in the nectar and since no one was using the cells for eggs, they put the nectar in those cells. Now, the hive is honey bound and the new queen - I put in - who wants to lay eggs has no place to lay them. This could be bad.
I put the young, under performing queen behind the excluder so I could find her again quickly and hoped the newly purchased queens would come on Thursday.
Thursday morning I called the Post Office to let them know of the queens' expected arrival and was informed that they had already arrived and could I come and get them. No one had to ask me twice. My daughters and I took out the old queens and installed the new queens that afternoon. From the outside everything looks good but I'll know when I go inside the hive this afternoon. Hopefully, they will both be laying up a storm. I'll move several of the nectar filled combs to the other hive then, too. That hive will need it for winter food and the empty combs I take from it are needed in the other hive to provide egg space. That's why people say to always have at least 2 hives or share a pair of hives with another beekeeper. As long as they are a standard size, you can always strengthen a weak hive from the stronger of the two.
You maybe wondering why I felt the need to get new queens. Well... I'm changing species of bees. I have Italian bees now and they have genetics that do not winter well and can't fight off mites and other pests so well. I am getting New World Carniolians - from Eastern Europe. They winter better, eat less of the stores honey and build up numbers in the spring faster. They are also more resistant to mites and other pests. The Italians are brown and black while the NWCs are black striped and smaller. In about 6 weeks the hive will be all NWCs. Cool huh?
There's always something new to learn in a beehive. Take care, Lisa