Keeping bees continues fascinate us, as our most recent trip to the hives proved. We have been working to correct a “laying worker” situation and had to see how the bees were handling it.
During our previous inspection (a few weeks prior), we discovered way too many drones in one of our hives which usually means there is a laying worker. A worker bee will start to lay eggs when the queen is gone (for whatever reason), and since the laying worker is infertile, only drones (male bees) will hatch from her eggs. If a new queen hatches in the hive, she is usually killed because of the laying worker. In order to correct the situation, we needed to get the pheromones back in balance. One way to do that is to introduce frames with open brood into the hive. The workers will notice the change in pheromones and proceed to make a new queen to take over for the laying worker. I also took a piece of bur comb with a queen cell attached to it from the other hive and rubber-banded it to one of those frames with brood. The bees know how to attach the piece to the existing comb and they chew the rubber band off the frame.
There are a couple other methods for correcting a situation like this, and I think each is a gamble, but this one seems to have worked for us. During this next inspection, we saw that the number of drones had dropped significantly. We also saw a lot of open brood as well as some baby bees hatching from their cells. All of this is evidence that there is a new queen and she is doing a fine job!
We saw a good deal of honey in the hives. One of the boxes must weigh close to 50 pounds, so I had my husband do the lifting for that one. In the process of moving things around, we did break apart some honey comb. I feel bad when this happens, but the bees are very good at cleaning up spilled honey and rebuilding the comb. Judging by the amount of capped honey we saw, we will definitely have some to harvest later this summer. (Yaay!)