Sniff! So on Tuesday, day after my smooth install, I get a call at work from my wife saying all the bees are swarming up in the tree above the hives. I rush home and called Jim Orem from the bee club and he was gracious enough to meet me at home. Here’s where we depart from the text books.

When I installed the two hives the day before, I noted that neither queen was marked. This is significant. I thought that was odd, but went ahead and installed them. First thing I did when I got home and before dealing with the ball of bees in the trees, was check both hives and sure enough, the bees were out of both of them. One queen was already released from her cage (presumably up in the tree now.) The other queen was still in her cage in the abandoned hive.

The cluster in the tree looked HUGE. It looked almost like MORE bees than most packages combined (but, I can’t be certain) So Jim and I got them down and shook them into a single hive over a sheet. He believed they didn’t like the plasticell foundation. We added in two drawn frames of his into each of my hives to maybe help retain them. Also dropped a few drops of lemongrass oil.

Here’s the weird part. Jim saw a MARKED queen walk into the entrance and said he was sure. She was marked with a faint white dot. When most of the bees were in the hive, we noted a ball of bees still on the sheet. We poked through them… and sure enough the other, released unmarked queen. So, there were two queens up in the tree of this ball of bees…. with another one still in her cage! So, I picked up a third queen.

My theory… my bees maybe attracted a swarm? But why would my two hives abandon… and why would there be two queens in this ball of bees up above?

Jim’s theory… he thinks maybe a marked queen was somehow shook in with one of the packages loose with the other bees. So, at the end of Tues. I had two hives, one with all the bees, a queen running loose… and another queen still in her cage. The other hive had a queen in her cage and a handful of bees around her.

Move to Wednesday. The bees went all day with no problem. They did start drawing out comb in the main hive. The other hive just sat there with her queen in a cage and a few bees to feed and keep her warm. When I got home from work, I performed part two of the plan.

In the strong hove, the queen that was released took dominance and the bees abandoned the one in the cage. I removed the dead queen in her cage. I removed two frames of slightly drawn comb with bees on it and placed it in the week hive next to the queen still in her cage. I made sure the released queen was not on these frames so she wouldn’t be moved into the other hive.

Then, I swapped the two hives so that the foragers out in the field would come back into the weak hive. This is some pretty dramatic changes for two new hives, but so far, as of this morning (Thursday) things look ok. The idea is to get through the day without anyone leaving. If that all goes OK, I think we may be back to two reasonably strong hives. Will update soon.