On Friday May 13, 2017 our order of 20 Carniolan queens from Oliveraz Apiaries arrived from Hawaii. Unfortunately, of the 20, three were dead on arrival. Four people picked up their queens on Friday. The rest got theirs on Saturday the 14th at our May field day. I had ordered four queens myself, so I gave away three of my queens and Oliveraz promised to send three more. I thought they were due to arrive on Monday the 15th. So, for the field day we first distributed the queens to those who had ordered them. My queens were unmarked, so those that took my queens had to get unmarked queens when they had ordered marked queens, but there wasn't much we could do about that. I had housed the queens overnight in my horizontal hive by the greenhouse. The queens were in California shipping cages in a box filled with loose worker bees. Those bees had already claimed the horizontal hive as their own, so I left my queen in there with them and decided to bring back frames from the live hive across the street to put with them and make that my first split. We proceeded across the street to collect frames of brood from the hive over there. When we opened the hive we discovered that all the capped brood we had seen three weeks earlier had emerged and there was NO brood at all. No capped brood, no open brood, nothing. There were bees and they were storing nectar and pollen, but obviously there was no queen in the hive. There were a few pathetic attempts at queen cells in the top box, but not even evidence of scattered drone brood like they had a laying worker. So we did the only thing we could do - we took a box of bees over and put them with the queen. In essence I made a package with my purchased queen. I am sure there were fewer bees than a three pound package, but hopefully there were enough to get the hive going. We put them in the horizontal hive and direct released the queen, reasoning that they were queenless anyway and wouldn't harm her. Hopefully that was a correct assumption. There was some fighting between the attendant bees and the bees we brought over. Hopefully all was well with the queen, though.
On Sunday the 14th (Mother's Day) it was a nice sunny day. I didn't see much activity at the entrance of the horizontal hive. I was worried, so I just peeked inside. I didn't disturb anything. They were diligently working in an organized fashion on two or three frames. Since it is a small number of bees, I think that means they are OK. I can't know for sure until I look at the frames, but I don't want to do that until at least two weeks have gone by.
Monday the 15th came and I realized I hadn't gotten any shipping notification for the queens. I called Oliveraz and discovered I had misunderstood, they were due to ship on Monday, this time from California, to arrive on Tuesday the 16th. A few minutes after I finished talking to them, they called back to say that they still didn't have Carniolans available from CA, so I could either get Italians or have the Carniolans shipped from Hawaii again, two day air. I opted for the Hawaiians because I really want Carniolans. They assured me these would be in three hole introduction cages with attendants in the cages, so should have a better chance of arriving safely. So now I was up to Wednesday the 17th. This time the queens arrived safely. Earlier in the day, which was a nice warm sunny day, although a bit windy, we had taken the hive across the street and divided it into three. We put one box full of bees in a vertical hive by the greenhouse, the frames from another in the horizontal hive on my other piece of property near my male goats and left the remaining two boxes in place. We set it all up so I just had to pop in the queens when they came. I directly introduced the queen in the horizontal hive because it has no head space over the inner cover. The other two, I popped the cork on the candy side and dug out some of the candy and placed on the top bars of the hive with my spacer on top so the bees had room and there was room for the queen cage.
Today, Saturday the 20th, I checked the two hives that were not directly introduced. The one by the greenhouse had eaten out the candy, but the queen was still in the cage. I released her and put the inner cover and spacer back in their proper positions. I also gave them another box of mostly drawn comb so the queen has plenty of room to lay eggs. Although, she will have to wait until she has enough workers hatched out to cover her brood to expand much. Across the street the bees had released their queen. They seemed to be working in an organized fashion. They seemed a little bit grumpy, but since it was 57 degrees, windy and impending thunderstorms, I admit I was a bit grumpy too, so I won't worry too much about that.
Now I wait. I will check those that had a direct release next Saturday if the weather permits. Stay tuned.