Varroa-project, part 1 ; arrival of the bees

In the end of June, 10 small hives of healthy, mite-free bees were transported to Helsinki from Åland islands.  Unfortunately only seven of them survived the trip- the temperature at the ship’s cardeck rose too high and though the traveltime was quite short, it was still too much for bees to tolerate.

Seven hives were placed near the bee laboratory at Viikki campus and arranged to their stands- which differ from ordinary stands, since the hives are rather hanging from support structure than standing on the ground.  Each of us have marked hives to tend and dedicate our spare time to- “mine” are hives 5 and 7.


The bees are spreading pheromones from the Nasonov gland. The tip of their abdomen is bent open and it exposes the gland, and they spread the pheromone for other bees of their hive to find their way home. You can often see this at the entrance of the hive after the beekeeper has paid a visit.

On July 5th the hives 1, 2, 3, 5 and 7 were strongly alive and active.  Queens were found from all of them, though with hive number seven there were no sightings, but a few freshly laid eggs gave an impression of queen being present.

Hives 4 and 6 weren’t doing so greatly- they were phlegmatic, passive and uninterested of humans poking around their tiny realm.  There where only a couple of hundred bees in those hives, when the stronger hives presented the estimated amount of 10 000 or more.  We took a few frames with eggs and tiny larvae from stronger hives and gave them a few empty frames in return, hoping it would activate bees to turn one of the into a new queen.

As for the research project; we took samples, which means the unfortunate job of collecting bees to a small bottle, telling them I’m sorry and I know it’s cruel but this time there are no other scientifically reliable way to do this.  Then we label the bottles and put them in a freezer for later examination.  The amount of bees gathered was supposed to be around 50, but as it appears they dislike being shut in a bottle just like we would and frantically escape whenever possible, the result of 15 to 20 bees was quite enough.  This procedure will be repeated ones every two weeks or so.  In the near future there might be another way of checking this- hopefully one that doesn’t need killing the bees.

On July 11th we were beginning to concentrate to our own hives more and more, keeping our own notes.  It has it’s pros and cons- on the other hand we get to know the bees better and better but on the other hand have practically no idea of the status of other nests, which creates small problems later on.

Hive number 4 was still phlegmatic, though with more bees than last time, and no indication of queen or making of one.  But number 7 was as active as ever- I went through the whole hive, every frame, and found no queen nor eggs, only some week old larvae.  What they did have, was an amazing amount of queen cells.  Considering the fact that a queen obviously wasn’t there, and the hive wasn’t even half full yet, I deduced that there were no danger of swarming and let them keep their queen cells.  I took one frame with two queen cells and introduced it to hive 4.   All the hives had now either queen cells or indication of queen being present.

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