Looking for the Queen Bee
By Margaret Sloan, Sunset production coordinator
Victory! The PVC, jar lid, and Vaseline barriers are keeping the ants out. But had we been too slow, allowing the ants to build nests in the hives?
Friday was the scheduled day to open the hive, and we had another burning question: Were our queen bees alive and laying eggs?
Opening hives is stressfull on bees. Imagine how you’d feel if someone filled your home with smoke, yanked off the roof, and and pulled out your babies’ beds to peer and poke at your sleeping family.
We had 8 people doing that to our bees. And we sort of forgot to mind our bee manners. We crowded around, waving our arms, being loud, moving fast. Some of us did not cover our (dark) hair—in short, we acted like 8 big bears. Bees do not like bears, for obvious reasons.
What gentle bees! They did not sting us for our bearish behavior. The hum of the first hive we opened rose scarcely a half-tone, even when we cheered on finding a frame full of tiny little eggs, a sure sign of a laying queen bee. And no sign of ants. Whew.
But by the time we opened the second hive, the bees were thouroughly tired of us. Despite puffs of eucalyptus flavored smoke, they kept lining up along the frame tops to glare at us (a precursor to attacking). Nervously, we inspected a few frames but found no sign of a queen.
As the pitch of the colony’s hum rose in irritability, we closed the box and made yet another call to Randy Oliver. There’s no queen, we said, no eggs. Just one full frame of honey and some weird little combs at the bottom of the frames.
Randy did reassure us that the queen had probably not died horribly in the Tanglefoot, but it was possible that she did die in transit. A bee colony without a queen is not a good thing.
He sent us out to inspect the hive. This time we minded our manners, the bees minded theirs, and—hurrah!—on the drone frame (more on this in a future post) we found the queen going about her business. We cheered (quietly) and put their roof back on, leaving them to recover from our bear-handed inspections.
Will we get honey for our One-Block Diet dinner this summer? We’re not sure. The bees are still alive, working like, well, like bees, and we’re keeping a good thought.