Last Saturday I brought home our two nucs from Charlie Andros over at Linden Apiaries. I plunked them down and proceeded to check the rest of the hives as well.
One of the two packages from Black Cat was doing fine, and I gave it a second hive body. By the way, it seemed to be doing roughly as well as the nucs I just brought home. I find that a really interesting data point. A local nuc and a southern package will be roughly the same by the fourth of July. The package costs $25-50 less, however their overwinter survival rate has gone into the tank. We’re hoping the local nucs will do better.
Unfortunately the other package was queenless and broodless. I called Charlie about getting a new queen but his advice was that it was too late and I should just shake the bees out in front of the other hives. Well, I did, and pulled out all the frames.
Finally, the hive that overwintered looked better than I have ever seen any of our hives look. I gave it a honey super and a hearty “Well done, girls!” I am pretty sure that this is the earliest in the year that we’ve put a honey super on a hive in the four years that we’ve kept bees. I have high hopes of getting fifty pounds or more of honey from this hive. New Hampshire normal figures are 70-100 pounds of honey per hive. Over in Vermont, they claim 100-150. I’ve always wondered what the difference is.
Friday evening we were sitting in the gazebo and I saw something in one corner of the should-have-been-empty hive body. I checked yesterday and sure enough there was a tiny little cluster, with foragers coming and going. No visible comb or brood, but I can’t imagine how the hive I broke up could possibley stick together without a queen. Since I haven’t actually found a queen in a hive since 2004, perhaps they had a virgin that I didn’t see.
Lisa and I talked over what to do and over the evening decided that we just have to give the critters a chance. As soon as it stops raining we’re going out to take a look at the nucs and if the cluster is still there, give them a home back.