Meet Ilena East, or the remnants thereof after my visit of April 27. I visited Ilena East, on schedule to the day for a change, only to discover the hive chock-full of capped and uncapped swarm cells. I had been keeping particularly close tabs on this hive, as it was populous, productive, and the daughter of similarly well-behaved colony. I had smart plans of splitting both in the spring and later in the summer, so much did I love this queen and her offspring.
And then the bees thought otherwise.
My inspection of April 17 presented a hive with lots of eggs, open brood and no occupied queen cups. I supered it above the brood area to allow the bees to decide which they wanted more–brood space or nectar storage. There were still eggs and some open brood when I inspected 10 days later, but after over three hours of frame-by-frame hunting, no queen. Of course this all happened after work from 5:00-8:30pm. After several trips home for equipment I hadn’t anticipated using for a couple more weeks, I ended up dividing the colony into four 2-3 frame mating nucs, the three stacked, western condos (left) and original colony (right). Each western in the hive stack on the left has its own entrance and a double screen protecting it from the adjacent split.
On May 2nd, my last visit to the splits (still hoping madly to find evidence of my beautiful queen), I spotted several virgin queens. No luck finding my old queen, but if all goes well, I should be able to spot the eggs of the next generation’s queens on my next inspection.
Oh, and did I mention that a neighbor saw a really big swarm a couple of hours before my splitting party began? Lesson learned: 10 days with a crazy-good queen and great weather is too long!