Went through the hive with the old (failing) queen and the new prolific one. The queens are separated with a QE so I know what's happening with each one. Hive is doing really well in terms of numbers of bees & brood.
In the failing queen FD, the bees had made a supersedure cell from one of the playcups - it had been capped during the week. No swarm cells anywhere - just the one supersedure. My guess is that the nurse bees in that part of the hive couldn't smell the better queen up the top and decided to requeen. It would be a shame to let a perfectly good looking queen cell go to waste, so I split the old failing queen into a new single FD, together with a few frames of brood & bees including the supersedure cell and some stores. I hope the new virgin queen will get mated and replace the old failing one. Plenty of drones in my hive, so I assume others in the area have them too.
This also gave the strong queen more laying space, which she was starting to run low on at the top. I moved her brood nest to the bottom, lifted some frames up and checkerboarded a second FD with stores and foundation frames. The split has obviously weakened the hive a bit just before honey flow and there weren't a lot of stores: I'm feeding 1:1 syrup to both the split and the hive to make sure the bees don't starve and that they have the feed they need to draw out the foundation frames. Hopefully they draw these frames reasonably quickly so I can add supers soon.
The other hive is doing very well with good bee numbers (although not as high as with the 2-queen hive) and heaps of fresh stores, no signs of swarm cells. Varroa strips are coming out next week and then it'll be super time.
Gear & maintenance
I got a couple of extra FD boxes just in case they are needed and slapped some primer sealer on. I'll paint them later in the week and swap them with the current boxes so they can come out for a bit of maintenance.
Last season I was in a rush and got some of those thermowood boxes that supposedly don't need paint...but they are already showing signs of cracking, so I'm not that impressed with those. I'll give them a scrape and a lick of paint and hopefully they'll last a bit better. It would be ideal to have a paraffin dipper of course but that would be overkill for my tiny operation - might find out if ABC has one I could use.
The hive lid designs seem to both be compromises one way or the other. I started with the closed ends lids but they aren't very easy to get on and off after a season of weather so I bought a sprung end lid and have preferred that in terms of ease of use. I got sprung end lids for the father-in-law but now after the winter he is saying they were letting in water on the hive mat. Who knows, didn't happen to me.
I need to start thinking about which kind of honey extractor to buy. It would be nice to just uncap the frames and spin rather than making the bees redraw all those supers every year. It's not a small investment though, even as a shared purchase. A spoon is pretty cheap in comparison.