There she is: a queen! All sleek and regal. We are calling her Isabel.
I had run over to the hives last Tuesday (June 16) to pop in the white plastic boards that fit in the base of the hives. I was curious about varroa. You leave the white board in place for 2-3 days, and then you count the varroa that fall. This gives you some indication of your level of infestation.
On Thursday, I retrieved the boards. I lined the mites up in groups of five to make them easier to count. I still needed a magnifying glass and the flashlight feature on my iPhone because I am old and Luxembourg is grey and gloomy. (Oddly, both hives had the same number of mites. Shouldn't the bigger hive have had more?)
Anyhow, I couldn't resist opening the Little Hive on Tuesday to see why everyone was so zen in there. And there she was: a queen. I wasn't convinced I knew what I was looking at at first. And she is spritely, moving around the frame very quickly. But I managed to take a picture which I then sent to my husband. He called me immediately and said, "Hey, look at that! We have a queen!" So I felt validated.
I ran over to the Bee Store to get a queen marking kit, but then we had several days where it was too rainy and too cold to open the hive. (I don't want to open it if the temperature is below 16C, which, even in June happens here -- I even had the heat on last week.) In the end I didn't get back to the hive until yesterday (June 23).
I took my oldest daughter with me to man the smoker, and together we looked at every frame (and there are only ten) twice. But no luck. The mood in the hive was still zen. Foragers were bringing in pollen. And we could see eggs and larvae. We knew she was there. But we could not find her.
Today I couldn't stand it, and we went back again. We looked at every frame without any luck and were working our way back through the frames when we finally spotted her. Again, she was moving very quickly, and what followed was a series of amateur moves while we managed to catch her, glue a blue dot to her, and return her to her people.
Now I'm convinced we manhandled her, and while I want to give them a break from my intrusiveness, I'm dying to spy on her now that she will be easier to see. Maybe Sunday.
In the meantime, I have this picture of bees with propolis on their legs:
See the reddish-brown dots? We also saw a lot of grey pollen on bees, which, according to my sources, is probably poppy or berries (blackberries and raspberries).
We also added some bee candy (sugar paste) to the Little Hive. The idea here is that you want the hive to reach a critical mass (10,000 bees) before winter. By feeding them, the foragers don't have to work so hard, and the queen has the energy for all the egg laying she needs to do to get the hive strong enough to winter over.
Tonight I went to see an organic beekeeper. He has a small hive in a glass frame. You can see the bees working and doing their bee dances. And you could see their queen. She would look around for an empty cell, and then lay an egg in it. It was so cool to watch. Another thing to look for at my hives.