Thanks all for the advice on what do with my “bad queen” hive (Queens aplenty). The consensus seemed to be that my best course of action would be to replace the queen as quickly as possible. David Neel of Whidbees, who I bought my colonies from, agreed and offered to provide a replacement queen free of charge. Unfortunately, a combination of distance and laziness (on my part) preventing this from happening, so I had to choose from the menu of secondary options.
There are two problems with simply letting the bees replace the old queen with a new one:
- The new queen will be a hybrid of whatever is in the area, instead of a true bread Italian
- The time it will take the new queen to grow, emerge, mate and start laying could set the hive back critically. By the time she’s ready to go, the population of the hive may be decreased through normal attrition to the point where it collapses.
I’m willing to live with the first issue, as I’m not really clear on what the advantage of a bred queen are from a hybrid. My understanding is that all the bees we have hereabouts are either bred, anyway, or first / second generation feral. There just aren’t large populations of honey bees growing generation on generation in the wild. If they could survive, it would imply there was a breed out there that was resistant to all the nasties that plague the domesticated hives.
I knew I had to address the second issue, though, so I tried a combination of tactics:
- I moved three frames of brood from the strong Carniolan hive to the weak Italian hive to provide some reinforcements while the new queen gets ready.
- I swapped the placement of the two hives at around 3 pm on a warm day, so that some portion of the population of the strong hive would return to the weak hive and move in, taking it as their new home. (The reverse would happen, as well, but to a lesser extent because there are fewer of them to begin with).
Note how the the weak hive (on the right) is already showing more activity than the previously stronger hive, even just shortly after we finished the move?
As of the next day, the previously weak hive was showing considerably more vigor and activity, so I believe the position swapping maneuver worked. It remains to be seen whether it will be enough.