Thursday, April 21, 2011

Queen of Errors

Have I mentioned yet that I hardly know what I am doing with these bees? I have also learned that I only listen to about half of what I am told. Or maybe I just remember only half of what I hear. Either way, I only know about half of what I should know, or perhaps much, much less than half of what I should.

Some capped brood (bee eggs/soon to be baby bees)

So the Bee Man told me I would want to go into the hives and make sure that they weren't thinking about swarming. Among the many things Dad told me, the only thing I heard was "get rid of queen cells." This was about half the story. I go in -- may I mention with much less distress for the bees and myself -- on a search and destroy mission. I find two queen cells and destroy them efficiently. I move the outside frames by switching places with the current outside frames, to give the girls a little more room, and I get out as it just gets too dark to see anything but a softly buzzing mass. 

I called to report my success to the Bee Man. "Did you see the queen?" he asked.  "No." "Did you see larva?" he asked. "No." "Did you check for eggs?" "No," I reply vaguely realizing where this train of questioning was going. "How do you know you have a queen then?" Good question. I had forgotten to really check for any signs of a living queen at all before destroying the heirs to the throne. 

You can see some larva here. They look like little white grubs in the uncapped cells. You can see them most clearly on the left of the picture at top and bottom. 

While a queen cell can mean that the bees are preparing to swarm, it can also mean they need to replace an absent or bad queen. If you see eggs, that means she has been there a day or so ago. If you see larva, you know she was alive at least three days ago. If you see capped brood, she has been alive within the last week or so (larva takes around eight-ten days to hatch). I had a younger queen cell (gross white jelly stuff inside) and an older queen cell (bright white bee-looking creature). So I would have to go in later in the week to find the queen and take a look at how she has been performing.  If you want to know more about queen bees, queen cells, or see what is inside the queen cell, take a look here or check out Dad's blog posts on the subject. 

I had an excellent photographer, who surprised me by getting very close to the frames to take pictures. I surprised myself by sounding just like my dad when I told him to get back if he didn't want to get stung. He spent some time being artistic with the pictures of the smoker.

He also spend some time slaying serpents for me. I picked up this little guy thinking he was the most awesome earthworm ever. He was no earthworm. I hope "momma 'nake" is nowhere around.

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