SoCal Beekeeping

Bees In A Birdhouse
October 14, 2019
P. Michael Henderson

I got a call about some bees in a birdhouse the other day.  I went over to look at the situation and sure enough, there was a birdhouse - a fairly large birdhouse - and there were bees in it.  I didn't look inside the birdhouse, which was a mistake.  The people told me that they only noticed the bees a month or so ago so I figured they were a recent "move-in".

But when I went to get the bees it was obvious they were a well established hive and had been there a long time.  First, there were a lot of bees - a lot more than a swarm.  And the birdhouse was FULL of comb, both brood and honey.  My access into the birdhouse was through two doors that opened and gave me about a 6" by 6" access hole.  I had to cut the comb to get it out of the birdhouse.  The brood comb wasn't too bad but the honey comb made a mess.  There was honey all over everything - my gloves, the birdhouse, my tools, everything.

But I did manage to get the comb and the bees out of the birdhouse.  I used the bee vacuum to get the bees.  However, because of my limited access into the birdhouse, some of the bees were inaccessible to me so I left more bees in the birdhouse than I would have preferred to.

I put the brood comb into frames and transferred the bees to a hive with the brood comb.  I extracted as much of the honey as I could from the honey comb and I plan to feed that honey to them soon.

The big question is whether I got the queen and whether she's okay.  It's been about a week now so I'll take a look tomorrow and see what the brood comb looks like - whether I can see any eggs or early larvae.  If I do, I'll know that the queen is there and laying.  If not, I'll take a frame of early brood that has eggs in it from one of my other hives and give it to them to so that they can make a new queen.  It's very late for a mating flight but we never have really cold weather so I hope if they have to make a new queen she can mate.

 I'll report back as I know more.  Sorry I didn't take any pictures of this. 

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10/28/2019  It appears that I either didn't capture the queen or she was damaged or killed in the cutout.  I went into the hive yesterday and there were emergency queen cells on the brood comb that I transferred from the birdhouse.  At least I hope they were emergency queen cells and not just empty queen cups.

I didn't see any emergency queen cells (or queen cups) on the brood comb when I put it into the hive so I'm pretty sure they are new.  All of the emergency queen cells were open so if they are emergency queen cells I assume the queens hatched.  The problem now is whether there are drones for her to mate with.  We're having warm weather so I hope the other hives have not kicked their drones out yet.

I'll know in a couple of weeks.  If there are eggs or larvae I'll know I have a queen.  If not, I'll try giving them a frame of early brood (eggs) from one of my other hives. 

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11/3/2019  I went into the hive today and there was no brood or eggs.  If the bees are making a new queen - and I found two emergency cells empty - that's to be expected.  The queen has to sexually mature and then make her mating flight - then come back and start laying.  My concern is whether there are drones out there for her to mate with.

I took a frame of brood that contained eggs and capped brood and put it in the hive.  That will give them some new bees and a chance to make a queen if the first emergency queen failed.  I have my fingers crossed.  It's a big hive, well mannered, and I'd like to keep it.  I'll keep reporting what I see each week.