My followers will recall that I became the proud owner of two beehives last month each with a queen and a nucleus of 15-20,000 workers and a few drones. I named the queens Elizabeth and Victoria and their hives (palaces) Sandringham and Balmoral respectively. Everything has been going on brilliantly – the numbers of workers increasing and the honey stores building up. Elizabeth’s ladies in waiting have been very docile and well mannered and her palace and all her children have been very well tended. Victoria’s workers have been a lot more feisty and less well brought up but the numbers in Balmoral have increased more quickly than in Sandringham. So much so that last week I noticed some queen cups had been made and wondered if it was a sign they were thinking about swarming. However I had been told more than once that they probably wouldn’t bother swarming in their first season so not to worry too much. No sign of queen cups in Sandringham where the ladies were quietly going about their business as usual. I usually check the hives on Friday/Saturday each week provided the weather is OK and this Friday I went through Balmoral first. I immediately spotted a lot of queen cells with big, fat grubs in them. This is a sure sign that the colony is preparing to swarm. The new queens would emerge and whizz off to pastures new with half of Victoria’s workers or Victoria herself would clear off with 1000’s of her girls, leaving the new virgin queen to take over what was left of the old colony. This would result in insufficient honey for us humans if the bees were to have enough to last them through next winter. “Eek!” I thought. Victoria was wandering around amongst the bees so I (look away now if you’re squeamish) set about squishing all the princesses in their cells. I decided it was lack of space to lay her eggs that was causing this behaviour so I put a super on top of the brood box and beneath the queen excluder to give Victoria more space to lay her eggs. Fingers crossed! In Sandringham I was surprised to also see lots of queen cells with larvae inside. (Gruesome bit coming up) I set about squishing them as before. I worked my way through all the frames without spotting Elizabeth but there were quite a few eggs in the cells so I wasn’t too concerned. – If there are eggs there must be a queen in residence. Afterwards I couldn’t stop wondering if all was well with Sandringham and Elizabeth. Were there fewer bees than there had been last week? I decided to go in again and check on Saturday. Well, I opened up Sandringham and went through all the brood frames three times – no sign of Elizabeth. And there were definitely fewer bees. Conclusion – Elizabeth had zoomed off with half her ladies in waiting to start a new colony somewhere else. And I had murdered all the princesses! Or so I thought… Luckily I found another queen cell that I’d missed tucked into a corner so I’m hoping that, with the care of her sisters, a new queen will emerge in a week or so to continue the dynasty. I can’t believe that my nice, quiet, well mannered queen has been so treacherous. Still, the good news is that I also checked up on Victoria and she was happily wandering around her new loft extension and has already laid lots of eggs. So, hopefully the crisis has been averted. I should get some honey from Balmoral this season. I think Elizabeth II will have to concentrate on building up her household staff at Sandringham this season and I will look forward to some honey next year!
July 8, 2014 at 10:58 pm
Your mini beekeeper looks very happy!