Alas. We have lost Queen Gretchen. Three weeks ago the Disc Hive had a beautiful colony of calm bees, with eggs and brood. Today there are only stores and adult bees to be seen in the brood box. I think I must have injured or lost the Queen last time I opened the hive.
What to do?
I'm not going to add a frame of eggs from another hive to see if they will make a new Queen. It's late in the season. It would be August by the time any such new Queen emerged...late to be starting off a new colony. As the rhyme goes:
A swarm in May is worth a load of hay; a swarm in June is worth a silver spoon; a swarm in July isn't worth a fly.
The poet didn't even get to August.
One possibility is to unite the Disc bees with their neighbours from the Smith Hive (Queen Eve). I had been thinking of doing that anyway, for another reason. The Smith Hive is partly home made, and is missing bee spaces in important places, and either this or their innate grumpiness makes the Smith bees quite bad tempered. It's time to retire the Smith Hive, and merge its workers with another colony.
But, maybe the Disc bees are ahead of me. There were opened queen cells on the frames. It's possible that the hive has already made virgin queens. Perhaps they are out on their mating flights as I write. A successful mating might still be possible - there are still drones around at this time of year. So I'm going to wait a couple of weeks and then look at the brood frames again. With luck, there will be eggs and larvae! A colony starting off so late in the year may have a small population for Winter, but I'd be glad to keep Queen Gretchen's genes in the apiary. Despite my opening the hive and lifting out brood frames without using any smoke, and despite their being queenless, the bees were very well tempered. I was particularly glad of that, given I was wearing a short floaty skirt. It's always trousers with the Smith bees!