On Jean’s instructions, I went into the hives on Monday to clear out the queen cells. Like so much of my life these days, it was a good news / bad news situation.
The good news was that there were no queen cells in either hive. The bad news is that Hive 2 had no queen.
No queen means no baby bees. No baby bees means no worker bees. No worker bees means no honey, and I want me my honey!
How did I know there was no queen? Well, take a look. The picture on the left is a frame of brood from Hive 1. Each of those capped cells has a little baby bee in it, itching to get out and collect me some honey. The frame in the middle is a frame from the brood chamber of Hive 2. See all those empty cells? Those are just ripe for egg-laying, but there is no egg-laying because there is no queen. The picture on the right shows the closest thing that Hive 2 could muster to brood. Those bullet-shaped cells have drones in them. Drones are boy bees. Boy bees don’t work. Boy bees don’t make me honey.
Regular worker bees can lay eggs that become boy bees, but they can’t lay eggs that become other (female) worker bees. Only queens can do that. Now, I’m pretty sure some search engine is going to pick up all this talk of queens, boys and getting laid and start classifying this site as a gay porn site, so I’ll leave off the bee reproduction lesson there.
Where did the queen go? Well, see my previous post, titled “Yay, problem solved! Oh…Oops. Crap!” She probably swarmed and left the colony with half of the workers. Ordinarily, she would have left another queen behind, but for some reason, in this case, she didn’t.
So what the heck do I do? Jean from Beez Neez said she wouldn’t be getting any queens in for another few weeks, and that would blow my season (great, more search engine fodder).
Well, what I did was open back up Hive 1 (I didn’t realize the problem with Hive 2 until I had completely reassembled Hive 1, in full body double-layer protection in 75 degree heat), grabbed two frames of newly laid brood and pop them into Hive 2, while pulling out two empty frames from Hive 2 and depositing them in Hive 1. What should happen is that the Hive 2 bees will be able to make themselves a new queen from the freshly laid eggs in those frames. Remember, the way a queen becomes a queen is that the workers feed a regular worker larva tons of royal jelly, some sort of bee magic potion that transforms ugly scullery maid bees into princesses.
Now, you may be asking, won’t the bees in Hive 2 realize they’ve been cuckolded, and are being asked to raise the young of a different hive? No, not really. Bees will carefully guard their hives from bees from other colonies, but brood is brood, and they’ll tend to it as if it were their own.
Now, Julie just pointed out to me that there’s a danger that the new queen won’t get out and get her some hot bee on bee action (search engines, take note, this is Insect Porn, not Gay Porn) and thus get herself into the family way. In that case, I could end up with a virgin queen in the hive, meaning no brood. Actually, as I type this, it occurs to me (a week late), that maybe that’s what I have now. I mean, the reason I think there’s no queen is that there is no brood, but that’s what you get from a virgin queen as well as from no queen. Hmmm…Jean, expect a phone call tomorrow.
Anyway, it being July 4th and all, Benni, Jole and I were having people over for a little BBQ and hot tub extravaganza, so I took advantage of having the hives open and plucked a frame of capped honey to feed to the guests. Picture on the left below shows what comb looks like after you’ve taken big spoonfuls of it and scooped it into people’s mouths after a Fourth of July BBQ. You can chew the wax kind of like chewing gum. Chewing gum you want to shortly spit out. But the honey is yum-yumalicious.
Oh, and the picture on the right is me with my new veil and gloves, in my California Department of Erections jumpsuit. Classy.