When I visited the hive this evening to record temperatures and mite drop I found that one of the 2 mites that came down today had a mandible-shaped dent in the carapace. Not only that, but also there were pupal antennae to be seen among the floor debris.
The floor is divided into roughly 1″ squares for easy counting. Of the squares beneath the cluster, about half had antennae, some more than one, so it’s something definitely happening up there and not just a random event.
This is the first evidence I have seen that the hive has a laying queen. The antennae were white, which means that they developed from eggs laid about a fortnight ago. This is good news in several ways: first, it eases my worry caused by the obvious dwindling in numbers, although this is to be expected in a swarm as it will have contained a proportion of older bees which don’t live all that long at this time of year.
Secondly the antennae are evidence that these bees have what is popularly called ‘hygienic’ tendencies in that they can detect the capped cells with mites and dig out the contents. See my report of Ron Hoskins’ lecture from the 7th January blog.
Thirdly, it is a strange coincidence that the first dented mite coincided with the first fall of pupal material. The dents are said to be caused by dehydration. This may be so, as it has been warm today, but I have taken mites home and kept them in a warm dry room without signs of indentation.
A lot more information needs to be gathered before any conclusions can sensibly be formed.