The Missing Queen?

I have had a fair bit of adventures during August and had to leave the bees to their own devices for a couple of weeks.  Vacation, fun and work conferences, jury duty and a summer cold have filled my list of recent events and I hope the bees enjoyed their time without me invading their homes and poking around on their comb to try and meddle with them in ways I think will help them out.  The end of July saw the most serious meddling by me when I decided that the hive Cheese Palace, which has done very well with most things this year, was not doing enough on its own to manage the varroa mites infesting it.  To try and remedy this problem I applied MAQS, which is a flash treatment of formic acid to try and kill the mites and help keep the hive strong going into winter.  The treatment certainly wiped out the mites, but when I was last able to inspect two weeks ago I was concerned it may have also caused the residents of Cheese Palace to revolt against their Queen, Mary T the First, and blame her for the fumigation I decided to inflict upon them.

I admit that I was concerned when I went out to the hive this past Sunday.  There are risks to all treatments, but considering how the hive had performed in population building, wax and hone production this year I decided it was worth trying to give them the best shot I could in helping them build up for the winter.  It was a beautiful day this past Sunday, so I was not overly concerned that the adult bee population seemed lower than normal.  Hopefully everyone was out foraging for what I hope is a strong fall honey flow.  I also reminded myself that when I last inspected there were nearly zero capped cells and no larva or eggs in the hive, which means no new bees to replace the works who only live about one month in the summer.

I took off the 3 honey supers sitting on the hive and noticed they were being filled with something.  The boxes were not as weighty as one containing full frames, but they were certainly heavier than those containing empty frames.  This was nice to notice, but also a little concerning since bees that have no brood to take care of will often put more effort into their foraging efforts.  The bees were also less aggressive than usual, which is nice overall but uncharacteristic of the normally ornery residents of Cheese Palace.

When I finally was able to loosen a middle frame from the brood nest I was pleasently surprised to find it full of capped brood.  I then reminded myself that I had placed a frame of eggs and larva from Boatmurdered into this hive so the bees could try to make their own queen if they needed to.  I quickly checked two more frames and found them both full of brood.  Success!  Queen Bee Mary T the First had survived the MAQS treatment and any ill will her subjects set upon her for living in a harsher environment for a week.  This is great news, because it means the hive can now build up with the same genetics for the fall to get through the winter and hopefully make it through to next spring either mite free or at least with a lower mite count.

If Cheese Palace had been such a good producer this year I may have decided to let the bees try and solve their own mite issue and see if they could survive the winter.  The best defence we have against these parasite is allow bees with hygenic genetics, which means they are more likely to remove mites from cells and not be so overwhelmed, survive to make future generations of bees and swarms.  Though certainly a worthwhile goal, there are several other traits that I feel should also be promoted in bees.  It may be only my second year of bee keeping, but I did not feel it was right to let a hive with such great productivity in other desirable areas fail because of varroa mites.


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