Following the bee tour last Sunday, I have taken care of a NUC for my friends, Korey and Kim. As I wrote here, their hive was literally overflowing with bees. We made a NUC (nucleus) box and brought them here to chill until Kim and Korey could buy a queen.
Tuesday they arrived with a tiny queen cage and we all gathered to watch Korey install Her Highness. It’s been ridiculously hot and bee suits feel like a personal sauna in the heat. Korey put on his veil and gloves while the rest of us stayed behind the smoke screen. Kim prepared the queen cage. This involves bending the little nails protruding from the sides, to serve as hangers for the cage between the frames. Then she punctured the candy plug that keeps the queen in the cage. The other bees will gnaw away the plug to free their new queen. Korey wanted to see if the bees had begun making their own queen cells; they had!
If a colony finds itself with no queen but brood cells, they will feed several cells with royal jelly, a substance secreted from the worker bees’ head, to produce a queen. These ladies had been hard at work. The assumption is that they will find the new queen, before the cells hatch, and adopt her as their leader.
The new monarch was installed into the NUC. Korey and Kim left it for a few days to settle and free the queen. Back at their bee yard they had already constructed a new hive for this colony. It should be a snap to install them once they are happily settled into the new social atmosphere.