It's been a few weeks since my last post - my apologies, life is in fast-forward these days between the end of school, start of camp, bees, garden, bike riding and a new kitten (!!). But the bees have been busy.
First a "duh" moment I must own up to: it was not a new queen who left with a swarm of my bees but the old queen, the dowager Queen Mum, Elizabeth herself who abdicated! The bees raise queen cells (swarm cells) expecting the old queen to leave and a new queen to hatch and take charge. But as I had industriously scraped out and destroyed all the swarm cells, Elizabeth had no successor. She had plenty of regular capped brood and honey, but no open brood and no queen cells. A serious problem - we were queenless in that hive.
I remembered my bee mentor showing us how she allowed her bees to re-queen themselves: she took a few frames of uncapped brood from a strong hive and gave it to a queenless hive. The bees would feed a few larvae royal jelly and turn what would've been regular worker bees into new queens.
Having two hives allowed me to borrow a few frames of open brood and give them to Elizabeth's hive to raise a new queen. My lovely girls raised about 4 queen cells - and as of last weekend they had all hatched! Hatching multiple queens is common - if two hatch at one time they will battle to the death and the winner takes all. If one hatches before the others she will go around, find the other queen cells, and sting her unhatched rivals in their incubators. Gotta love the battle of the queens.
I haven't seen the newly crowned queen, but I believe she's regally marching around in there. New queens are very hard to spot, their abdomens do not swell until they have mated and are ripe with eggs (all my fellow moms will understand what that's all about: big pregnant belly).
What should her name be??