On October 14th, I was scheduled to remove Bayvarol strips from one of my apiaries. The day was reasonably mild for the time of year – about 11-12ºC – and the job went routinely until I got to the last hive. This was one I had had some trouble with earlier in the year. I had removed the queen for breeding purposes back to the home apiary and tried to introduce a new queen. However, for some reason, they had rejected her, and I subsequently introduced another queen, but was also afraid they would get rid of her too. When I looked into the broodbox, my fears seemed to be confirmed, when there was no sign of brood of any description. However, as I was putting the crownboard back on, I saw a queen on the underside. This was definitely not the queen I had introduced because she had been marked red, but more amazingly, there was a mating sign hanging out of this queen! She had obviously just returned from a mating flight and had successfully mated with at least one drone on a mid-October day! I assume that the queen I had introduced had been allowed to lay for a while, but was then rejected for some reason and queen cells were raised from her progeny.
This observation connects loosely with another one last Christmas, when I saw two drones peeking out of the entrance of a colony in my home apiary. Some Irish beekeepers suggest that native colonies hold onto some drones well into the winter. However, Beowulf Cooper says that they in fact get rid of them as soon as the weather turns bad, although he does note that this occurs when there is a nectar dearth. These statements may not be incompatible given the mild weather and great blooms of ivy in late autumn and early winter we’ve generally been having over the last years. Observing the bees over the last few weeks confirms that native workers will fly and forage in cool temperatures, especially when there is no wind. There should be no reason why native queens and drones would not also be adapted to flying and mating under cool conditions. Has anyone any comments to make on such observations?