.....try, try again.
OK, so wish me luck—I'm steadfastly trying again [see the post above for pictures].
I installed my nuc box at Camp Waterloo on Easter Sunday (I know at least Curtis remembers this!) It consisted of two deep frames of what seemed to be a decent amount of brood, a couple of medium frames barely started, and a reasonable number of bees. And, what looked like a nice queen cell.
Six-plus weeks and four inspections later: Same old same old. Nada mas. Zip. Just one quarter-sized bit of new comb in all that time. Lots of bare-naked frames. A handful of larva in sorry-ass cells. Queen cell is gone, but I have never seen a queen. And believe me, I looked. Bees are coming and going, and I'm loving watching them do their thing, but there seem to be fewer and fewer of them. Plenty of drones, though, which makes me worry. I am trying not to be jealous reading posts from all my fellow beekeepers who have to keep adding supers because all their frames are filling up. The fact that my apple trees, tomatoes, and blackberries are loaded with blooms and fruit is of almost no consolation to me.
Finally, fifth inspection last weekend: Aaaaargh! Drone cells everywhere!!! No queen to be seen. That same old ratty brown comb. And a zillion ants have taken over, lined up dozens deep all over the sugar water baggie.
Emergency call to Kirk. He suspects a dud or absent queen is the cause of all this failure-to-thrive. (I prefer my own alternative scenario, about a rogue rebellious lesbian feminist bee who wanted nothing to do with the pampered diva lifestyle, being royally f***ed while 300 feet up in the air, endless childbearing, etc.—so she gathered up a bunch of her home girls and took off to set up a little rural commune with leadership by consensus.) OK, whatever—so now what do I do? Beekeeping for Dummies (and boy do I feel like a dummy) says to dump them all out on the ground far away from the hive and start all over. Dump my bees?? This can't be good for whatever's left of my karma.
Another call from Kirk: bees in a flower pot in Arcadia, and if I can drag myself out of bed at the crack of dawn on Wednesday, I can come along and do the cut-out with him. Carpe diem, I tell myself, and set the alarm. The flower pot is in the back of the backyard, upside down and half-buried in the dirt and debris from the redwood tree it is under. It's a nice big terra cotta bowl, CHOCK full of comb and bees.
I am excited. Kirk is calm, cool, and collected, and armed to the teeth with the smoker and a huge butcher knife. I have come prepared with 5 deep frames, which we quickly (but calmly and cooly, of course—I think Kirk could do a cut-out in his sleep) tie up with big slabs of brood comb cut out of the bowl. These go, with many bees attached, into a cardboard nuc box. Huge numbers of flower pot evictees are massed on the ground and on the adjacent cement wall. Kirk places the nuc box next to the wall, and we give them a half-hour or so to do their nassanoffing thing. And wonder of wonders, mostly all of them eventually stream (or are brushed) into the nuc box. Duct tape it all tightly shut and off we go.
I've neglected to wear my high boots, and somewhere along the line a suicide bomber has gone up each of my pant legs, so I come home with two painful souvenirs (now they just itch like crazy) along with my big box of bees. We transfer the new frames into the deep super that I built for my original group (in a vain attempt to encourage them to DO something,) squash the larva in what might pass as a supersedure cell on one of the old frames, add an empty medium as a shim for the baggy, sweep away some ants, and I'm on my own.
The bees flood out into many masses on the hive and the fence, caucus actively for an hour or so, and then get started on some serious housekeeping. Lots of squashed corpses are dragged out and dumped overboard, many bits of redwood tree debris are carted away, and—I have to tell this part—I believe I saw a large number of perfectly healthy drones being murdered right there on the front porch. Sorry, guys, but there really were WAY too many of you. And as for the Royal One, Kirk swore to me that she is in there somewhere. Or will be. I have absolute confidence.