July 12, 2012: Bee-wildered! Queen Cell and Deformed Wing Virus.


I am trying to check my hive at least twice a week to monitor how things are going, especially after seeing the varroa mites since installing the second package of bees and new queen.  The temperature here on the island has finally warmed up with highs in the high 60’s and low 70’s, and I’m definitely seeing much more flight activity around the hive.  It feels really hot for me wearing my full bee gear, so I’m down to gloves and my inner calm as it’s so much easier to view them without the veil.

Last week I was somewhat concerned when I went to change out the Hopguard strip and check the sticky paper again below the screened bottom board.  I don’t see any mites dropping, nor do I see any on the bees, so that could “bee” really good news!  What I saw instead were a few undeveloped bee pupae at the hive entrance and one poor little gal (newly hatched) with deformed wings.   Image

In case you don’t know this, Varroa mites are dreaded because they transmit bee viruses and are thought to contribute to Colony Collapse Disorder or CCD in this way.   One of these viruses is called Deformed Wing Virus.  Naturally, I worried that all my new bees hatching from eggs the new queen has laid will be affected.  Maybe I’ve handled the varroa problem in time.  Alas, only “time” will tell!

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Worker bee with varroa mite

The other thing I saw when I opened the hive was that my frames hadn’t been spaced properly and the bees are building chunks of comb in between those “too-far-apart” spaces.

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frames with “too-far-apart” spacing and comb build between

When I pulled out a frame, a piece of comb came loose.  I picked it up off the ground, along with the little bees that dropped off with it, put the bees back into the hive and carried this piece of comb back into the house to look a little closer at what looked (to me) like a queen cell.  Here is a photo so you can see it too and a photo of a developing pupa I opened to take a peek for for mites inside.

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Chunk of comb that fell off when I removed the frame

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Queen cell?

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bee pupa

Opened cell (Queen cell?)

After inspection and a few photographs, I put the comb back into the hive to see what might happen.  Maybe the new queen I put in last month has some sort of problem that the worker bees had already sensed.  Bees are really good at detecting when things are not as they should be.  They can even hear the varroa mites moving around in the brood cells and there are some species of bees that will open the invaded cells and kill the varroa mites, chewing off their legs.   If this is indeed a queen cell, then I’ve been wondering how she would lay more than just drone brood since there are no nearby hives with drone populations to fertilize her.

Maybe I should attempt to requeen.  I’m not certain yet what my decision will be.  I did check my hive yesterday and saw that the cap is off the comb that I put back.  It would be too early for a brand new queen to start laying eggs.  When I examined the frames, I did see eggs in many of the cells and there are capped cells with worker brood as well.

Last night I read another chapter in the book I’ve been so intrigued with, “Fruitless Fall, The Collapse of the Honey Bee and the Coming Agricultural Crisis” by Rowan Jacobsen – http://www.rowanjacobsen.com/books/fruitless-fall.  In Appendix I, it mentions the way bees actually build comb in the wild and says there are “mismatched cells” with very large cells (up to 6 mm in diameter) built along the top of the comb with cell size decreasing to small cells along the bottom of the comb.  Maybe with my “too-far-apart” frames, this is what the bees were fashioning.  I did find this piece of comb with the look-alike queen cell at the top of the frame.  Maybe it wasn’t actually a new queen and the queen I had is doing just fine.

More to buzz about later!

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About "BUGGING" YOU FROM FRIDAY HARBOR!

I love beetles and keep bees! In my free time, I enjoy photography (mostly bugs) and documenting insect species found on San Juan Island. I have limited availability for local, onsite beekeeping consultation and hive inspection, honey bee removal/swarm collection as well as phone/skype consultation. Contact me at cyndibrast@me.com Member Washington State Beekeepers Association
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