When we inspected the hives on Monday of two weeks ago and sugar rolled for mites1, we were surprised to see three capped queen cells in Dorcas. One was at the bottom of a frame and the other two were midface on another frame, one cell almost directly below the other. We could not find the queen, which we had seen when hiving the nuc. As per our usual procedure when confronted by unexpected bee news, we dithered. On the one hand all those queen cells were opportunity for making increase. On the other hand the end of July is usually far too late for us to be making splits. On the gripping hand everything this year has been late including swarms.

In the end, after expert guidance2 did not veto the idea as unreservedly stupid, we made a nuc, our wee Angharad, containing the frame that held two queen cells, two flanking bee-covered frames with a mix of brood and food, and two empty frames on the outside. We placed her atop the flat roof of a newly leveled, unoccupied Frankie. As before, we added a the second story above the inner cover to house a jar of syrup. Feeding this nuc is especially important since it is unlikely that we transfered many foragers and very likely that they would return to Dorcas anyway. We did attempt to forestall such return by lightly plugging the entrance with a bunch of grass, which the bees had moved by the next day.

Had we done nothing we may, in the worst case, have had a three queen free-for-all, possibly leaving no uninjured queen. A tidier result would be one queen hatching first and slaying her two rivals in their cells. But then there is no guarantee that a victorious virgin in Dorcas would return from her mating flight and we may yet have had a queenless hive. By making a nuc we can always recombine the bees if either one of parent hive or daughter nuc fails to produce a laying queen. Of course, both may fail but our odds are better and they may in the best case both succeed.

The violent scenarios still may occur in Angharad with her two queen cells. We had considered doing a little surgery to transplant one of the queen cells to another frame and make a second nuc, probably stealing some nurse bees from another hive. But we decided that the cells were so close together that we might clumsily damage them both. One out of three queens shall surely die but we hope no more than one.

On Thursday of last week we looked at the hives again. All the syrup jars were nearly or entirely empty so we refilled them. And all but Angharad received at least one empty bar to

Angharad The queen cells were both intact. Did we damage their fragile occupants in the move or did we simply check a little bit too early? We are poor judges of cap darkness, an indication of how long the cell has been capped, but the cell we left in Dorcas did look older with a very dark ring near the tip. Although the syrup jar had been drained there was no comb begun on the empty outer frames.

Dorcas Her queen cell was open at the bottom indicating that a queen had emerged although we did not see her. Nor did we search very hard. Now we need only fret that she survives her mating flight and settles to laying.

Clarissa There is nothing remarkable to report about this hive. She is full of bees and brood and honeycomb and working away as a good colony ought.

Beatrix This hive is booming yet again, more interested in making bees than storing honey, but in any case full of lovely straight combs. She had begun building comb on the other side of the follower board. Scraping that off we inserted several bars to give her the space she clearly needs.

Should the Angharad experiment3 fail we shall try to recombine with Dorcas if her queen proves viable. Otherwise we shall soon be down to two hives before winter.


1 All were below threshold for treatment but because the Mr. forgot to divide by three Beatrix got a dose of Apivar Life, thymol based.
2 Yes, it was Dr. Milbrath. We hate to name drop but believe in full disclosure and credit where due.
3 Sounds like an episode of Doctor Who.