Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Another real quick inspection

I checked the bees again last week just to make sure I could find the queen.  I was confident she was there because the brood I saw last time didn't seem to be drone, but I wanted to make sure.  I did find her, but she was not marked.  This could be simply that the paint as worn off, or it could be that she was killed and replaced toward the end of summer during the period that I didn't get a chance to check.  If that's the case, it may explain the low hive population.  (Long-winded explanation at the bottom.)  I also got under the hive this week while it was cold and looked up through the screened bottom board to see how big the cluster was.  It is probably only 2 to 3 frames wide.  Even figuring that it did seem to go from front to back, that's nowhere near the basketball or soccer ball size that the internet says it should be.  But, maybe Texas doesn't need that large a cluster, and the small hive I'm seeing is normal.  At least they are going through syrup well, when its warm, so maybe they won't starve.

I did find that I killed 10 or 15 bees when I rearranged the combs.  One of the honey combs was extra wide, and I didn't realize it when I put it on the outside edge.  When I then had to shove everything over to get the last frame back in, bees were trapped between the wall and that comb.

Ok, so the explanation of how a dead queen hurts the hive.  If the old queen died and then was replaced (known as supersedure), the hive would have missed a few weeks of babies.  15-16 days for the new queen to emerge, another 5-7 before she is ready to mate, and then another 2-3 days before she starts laying.  That's a total of 22 to 26 days.  The new bees then take another 21 days to emerge, but I think that may be offset by the 21 days of brood emerging that were laid up to the day the old queen died.  So figure just 22 to 26 days and the rest cancels out.

I originally was thinking that that may cut down on the number of foragers and food shortage may occur, but I think that is all a wash.  Any foragers can bring in more than enough food for any workers at any given time, provided the food is available.  Otherwise, we'd never be able to collect extra honey.  And if nectar isn't available, then they are supposed to have stores to support them anyway.  The foragers are dying, but new workers are graduating to foragers, with less and less workers emerging to replace them.  So if anything, the surplus being brought in is going up, or the amount being eaten from stores is dropping.  So I don't think workforce causes a problem.

That means that what is probably really important is simply that bees are dying constantly and the hive will shrink by the same number of eggs the queen should have laid.  The internet estimates 1000+ eggs laid per day by a good queen (1600, but we'll figure 1000).  Figuring that all bees live the same amount of time on average, that means that 1000 bees per day are dying and not being replaced.  So that's somewhere between 22000 and 26000 bees the hive has completely lost by the time the new queen starts laying.

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