The last three years’ early, unseasonably warm springs have given way to our more “normal” rainy weather this year. I’ve hesitated to interrupt the couple of good foraging days we’ve had in the last few weeks with inspections, but Saturday’s sun permitted some important observations in my hives. The hive that prompted me to recheck was one that, in spite of having a good flow of pollen coming in on April 1st, had absolutely no sign of having a queen–no eggs, no brood, and definitely no majestic insect. Though was far too early to expect good mating here in the chilly Coast Range, I added a frame of mixed brood from a strong colony to buy myself (and the bees) some time. In the two weeks between visits, the colony raised up a couple of emergency queens, both of which had emerged at the time of my visit. It’s very unlikely that virgin queen will find good mating conditions this month, so in went another frame of mixed brood.
A second colony, while fairly populous, was likewise broodless. This one had a fat queen (pictured above), but her wings were in curiously poor shape. I again added a frame of mixed brood from a stronger colony to keep the population stable and allow them to supercede this queen (on the off-chance that the weather cooperates in three weeks!) I thought on first glance that the queen had deformed wing virus, but that made little sense; she flew well enough to mate and keep this colony going through the winter. Upon closer inspection, the wings had a tattered look to them, as some workers’ wings have after a full career of foraging. Any ideas? I am stumped!