It had been seven days since my last disastrous encounter with the girls.
I had left some pieces of the collapsed comb in the hive in hopes that the girls would partially rectify my heavy handedness. I had watched intently over the past week, and they had cleaned out the two smaller pieces. I didn’t know what was going on with the larger piece. I did notice some of the cells had started to be open. I didn’t know if that meant the girls were cleaning them out or what was happening. However, at least once a day, typically in the morning, I would notice one of the girls removing a little white pupa. I didn’t know if it was coming from the broken piece or not.
My original thought was to leave the large piece until the time frame indicated that any developing bees would have hatched. But I noticed that their comb building had significantly slowed. Perhaps there were more concerned with cleaning up the mess than with expanding the comb. So before going in on Saturday morning, I had to make the call. Leave it… or Clean it.
I choose Clean it. So I opened the hive probably around 10:30 am, to encourage the forager girls to get out of the way. I slowly removed the top and the cover and then began to pry open the back top bars (“TBs”) immediately in front of the false back. I removed two of the TBs to give myself some working space. I slowly inserted my hive tool into the hive to begin removing the smaller pieces. No sooner had I gotten the tool down to the small pieces when …. WHAM…. Burning Hot Needle Poker… right into my index finger knuckle closest to my finger nail. “WTF???” I think to myself, “I’ve just started and I already got stung!” Ok, on go the gloves right after I flick the stinger out. This is not a good start to my day.
I remove the smaller pieces of comb that I had left and they had completely cleaned them out. Next, I remove the larger comb piece. I take it out of the hive and attempt to brush the girls off. They aren’t in a good mood today and I can already tell by their hum. There are still pupae in the comb. Some are white, others seem sort of grayish. They won’t go to waste I tell myself. I shall provide nutrients to the birds as a final sacrifice for my clumsiness.
I start to methodically process through the TBs. I work slowly and use the hive tool to disconnect the burr comb, which the girls build to attach the comb to the side wall. Learning from the mistakes of last week, I start from the bottom of the comb and work up towards the top. However, still petrified and mortified by the beenocide I perpetrated last week, I decide to NOT lift the combs out this week. I shall merely move them and try to look at them while still in the hive.
Each time I insert the hive tool into the hive, girls attack it. The girls are NOT happy. It is somewhat difficult to really see what is happening with the comb without lifting it up. Then I reach TB #5, where the comb collapsed last week. What’s this? There is new comb built here. “But I thought I moved that bar and pushed the whole comb together last week after the collapse” I say to myself. I suppose in my hastiness, I moved the TB to the front when the comb fell off and didn’t move it to be with the other empty bars. This now sets off another whole train of thought.
If I didn’t move the bar, that means there was brood comb, empty bar, and brood comb. What if the brood comb got to cold and all of that brood has died as well? My nightmare just won’t seem to end!
I continue looking through the comb, forever being watchful for Queen Victoria. I get all the way to the first TB. The girls hum, more an extremely loud BUZZ, is saying… no yelling… at me, “WE ARE NOT HAPPY WITH YOU SIR JAMES!” ringing almost deafening in my ears. A peculiar change has happened with the first TB. Last week, TB#1 appeared to be fully capped brood and all of the boys where hanging out there. This week, the entire comb was open, there were no boys there, and it seems to have been turned into the pollen pantry.
I begin placing the TBs back into position, working slowly and still searching for Queen Vicky. There are five to seven stingers in my gloves. Thank goodness for them! “Should I start using smoke? I wonder to myself. My original goal was to not use a smoker, but it may become necessary if they get this mad each time I try and visit. I get all the TBs back in place, unfortunately, I never saw Her Majesty. But I do notice that pollen is still coming in and take that as a sign she is still in control.
Fortunately, on Sunday I did get a visual on Queen Victoria through the window. She was moving around the edge of some of the comb, maybe on TB#7. I really do not see any Ladies in Waiting with her. Maybe she still has some maturing to do or something, but I thought she was always going to be surrounded by a little group that saw to her every need.
They do seem to be expanding TB#5, the new comb where the collapsed comb was; however, they don’t seem to be building any more new comb. This has been the case now for a few days and I am starting to get concerned. I’m not sure what to do. Hopefully when TB#5 gets out to the edge of the hive, they girls will start building on the end again.
I don’t think I will go in this weekend and see if that helps get them going again. I will just watch through the window. They were going gang busters with pollen on Monday though.
My new mantra… They know better than me… They know better than me… I just need to leave them alone.