Sunday, August 17, 2014

the queen is dead, long live the queen.

It had been ten days since I installed a new queen in my Italian package hive.  And it was time to take a look inside to be sure that she had been released from her cage.

As per Karen's instructions, I had pressed the cage into the comb between two frames.  And it was right where I had left it.  Positive sign, that it had not fallen down or twisted and blocked the exit.

As I looked at it, it was obviously empty.  Also a good sign.  Last I had seen it, there had been one mated queen with a bright green dot on her back and two attendants inside.

I pulled it out.

And saw that the sugar candy that had blocked the exit hole was gone.  As intended, hive bees had eaten their way in and the attendants had eaten their way out.  The time it takes to release the caged queen allows the hive bees to get used to her, to accept her and her smell.  So they give her a warm welcome when she is finally within stinger range rather than staging an ill advised coup d'etat.

Well, I thought, that's good.  And then I looked down at my healthy and very full hive.  Now I need to find her royal highness.  And look for eggs to ensure that she is getting down to business.

I went through the hive, frame by teeming frame.  And got worried.  I wasn't seeing any eggs.  It is possible they were there as it suddenly became cloudy while I worked, making it hard to see the tiny eggs in the comb, and I was getting stung quite a bit by a typically gentle but today quite testy hive.  Or, it is possible that there was just a small area of brood that I missed.  She really did just move in.  It is a lot to expect of a young queen.

And that's when I saw her.  I was looking for the green dot that I had seen on the body of my new queen, marked for easier spotting on the frames amidst the thousands of other bees.  Queen marking is an offered service that I truly appreciate.  A long thin body caught my eye because of its obvious difference from the fuzzy short bodies around her.

And I thought, Ah.  There she is.  



There was no green dot.  This was not my beautiful queen.  I mean, yes, it is a beautiful queen.  But not the one that, on a crazy busy day, I drove to purchase and bring back and then popped her in quickly moments before dinner guests arrived.  I threw my veil in the laundry closet and adjusted my pony tail just as their minivan pulled into our driveway.

But this is a queen, nonetheless.  See how the ladies are all forming a circle around her?

There are several possibilities as to what happened.  That this queen had already been in the hive or had been about to emerge from her queen cell when I popped a new one in and that marked queen was killed upon her release.  Which just seems rather rude to me, given that I had gone to great lengths to provide a marked and mated queen.  Or perhaps that purchased queen was a bit of a trouble maker and immediately rallied her new troops and swarmed, high on sugar and crazy with power was she. And this new queen was left behind.

I don't really know.  But I quickly closed the hive back up and walked away once I saw her.  Because there is still no new brood in the hive that I could find.  So she may as yet be unmated and I don't want to get in the way of that whole process too.  

As guard bees divebombed my veil, I stood back and scratched my head.  Hives can be funny.

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