What happened next
The day after we caught the swarm I dropped a container with some sugar syrup into the top bar hive, because the weekend was forecasted to be cold and wet so they probably wouldn’t be able to go out and forage. A few days later we opened up the hive on a fine day to find that all the bees had died. It looks like some workers were cleaning out cells from the super frames so that the queen to lay eggs. Very sad, but it just looks like it got too cold for them over the weekend and as they weren’t an established colony, couldn’t keep the temperature up. Next time I’d have kept them in the nucleus hive, and dropped that in the top bar, so that they have two layers of insulation. Ah well, you live, you learn (and a couple thousand of bees die in the process 🙁 …)
We hadn’t spotted a queen in either hive for a little while, but last week we managed to see a queen in each hive and eggs in the nucleus! After not seeing any eggs in the national, we decided to buy a mated queen in, as the current queen probably hadn’t been mated. After tracking down the (probably virgin) queen, we dropped her in a match box and put the new queen in. The new queen has her attenders in a cage, the opening to the cage is blocked with sugar fondant – this gives a couple of days before the bees eat through the sugar, which is handy because the colony will kill a foreign queen if you drop her straight in, after a couple of days however, her pheromones are distributed around the hive and she essentially isn’t a foreign queen any more. In a bit of a blunder trying to take a picture of the virgin queen in the match box, she managed to escape and flew off, somewhat in the direction of the hive. I wonder whether she would know her way back to the hive 10 meters away. We have a couple of days before the mated queen is out, so will look in a couple of days to see if the virgin queen is hanging around, waiting to fight her (you can really only have one queen in a hive at once).
Oh and hey wonderful new cedar hive, how are you doing? Today we transferred our strong nucleus colony to a brand new cedar national. It smells great.