Well hello there! I’ve been neglecting my blogging duties – all my spare time has been taken up practising for a children’s chemistry party I’m doing at the end of the month. There will be flashes, there will be bangs, there will be slime – and I’m not entirely sure it’s washable.
But I digress, much has changed on the apiary front. My indoor bees are getting a bit scary – their brood has expanded to two and a half boxes which is frightening number of bees in a very small space. They’re also starting to make play cells – queen cells that thankfully so far have no eggs in but hint at a colonies desire to form a swarm.
In an attempt to control this fearsome hoard and dissuade them from swarming I’ve had to rearrange their hive a bit. The theory is simple – as the Queen tends to move upwards in the hive as she lays eggs, swapping the two brood boxes around will encourage her to lay into old brood space as the new workers emerge.
In a normal hive this procedure should take all of five minutes, in this case however some idiot forgot that the lower brood box is bolted to an entrance tunnel. The only option was to move the combs one by one, really pissing off the bees and letting most of that demonic hive loose in the workshop.
It was loud, I couldn’t use much smoke, I got covered in bees. Remarkably I only got one sting but damn, how did one even manage to get inside my boot? – and sting me on the sole. That makes this year’s sting count four already – I’d hoped to get off to a better start, the other three were a couple on the wrist ( through the glove) and the good old arse crack again.
The allotment hive hasn’t faired so well – despite oodles of forage around here their nest just isn’t expanding – they cover about six frames and haven’t even drawn out comb they were given last year. I’ve given them a fair chance – they’ve had all spring to improve but enough is enough, the Queen has to go.
This isn’t something I do lightly but such bad bees shouldn’t be kept – their drones will spread poor traits to this year’s virgin queens and they’re not pets – a hive that needs support now shouldn’t be kept.
We need a sacrifice. Luckily I don’t have to destroy the hive – merely remove her majesty. It was quick, I put her into a tube with anaesthetic. I have heard people suggest that you can simply release a queen – you can’t, best case (for her) she finds her way back to the hive, worst case – unable to feed herself she starves to death or dies of exposure. Releasing a queen is the least humane option both for her and the health of any colonies in the area.
With no queen pheromones around the workers panic and build emergency queen cells around the youngest eggs and larvae in the brood. As all these are offspring of the bad queen, a week later I have to go in and remove them all – eight in total.
At that point the colony is essentially doomed and the bees know it, they’re a good deal louder than usual – the hive really does roar when I tamper with it . By putting in a few frames of freshly laid eggs and brood, I gave them some hope – it doesn’t matter that those eggs came a different hive, the workers will accept anything at this point. After a week I went in again and removed all but one of the new cells – although the first queen to emerge will normally remove all rivals, at this time of year there’s a risk she’ll simply swarm with half the workers leaving the next queen to head the hive.
Hopefully over the next few days a new leader will emerge, take her nuptial flight and begin the process of building the colony back up.
But what of the body of the former queen? It seemed a waste to simply throw her out, some sort of memorial is in order. So I decided to preserve her.
May she rest in peace and be a useful educational resource.