Honey bees unite!
Here’s a new take on package installation—new to me at least. If anyone has heard of this happening, I would sure like to know.
Last week Nancy, of Shady Grove Farm in Kentucky, installed two packages of honey bees from an in-state supplier. The bees were placed in used deeps that had been cleaned and prepared in advance.
Each package of bees was given used but clean brood combs along with two frames of honey. The queens were in standard cages with candy plugs. No new wood was in either hive.
The next day when Nancy checked on the colonies, she found all the bees—both packages—in one hive! The empty hive contained the caged queen along with about 100 workers. The full hive had every frame covered with bees, and more bees draped from the inner cover. What happened?
I thought this was fascinating, so I began to read Nancy’s e-mail to my husband. I had no sooner read her introductory words when he interrupted and said, “Let me guess! All the bees went to one hive.”
This floored me even more because I couldn’t figure out how he—not a beekeeper—saw it coming when I didn’t. I asked him why he thought that.
He said sooner or later the bees from one large hive would be separated into two packages, and maybe one of the packages contained the original queen. Then, as soon as they had the chance, they would all reunite.
This makes sense on some level, but I have images of bees from many hives getting vacuumed up into a big barrel and then parceled out to individual packages that are outfitted with random queens from the factory. If that were the case, I can’t see his theory working, but maybe smaller operations package their bees differently. I just don’t know.
In any case, I recommended she split the hive and try again. She did it by moving the bee-encrusted inner cover and two bee-covered frames back to the empty hive. After two days it seems to be holding, although the one hive is still much more populous than the other.
Nancy plans to equalize the populations after the bees settle in and the queens begin laying—an excellent idea that will help the smaller hive build up faster.
So, what do you think? What happened here and why? Does anyone have a theory or experience with this? Nancy and I would love to know more.