6.14.2011 Regicide!

Regicide.  Now there’s a word you don’t hear everyday. Yet it’s the only word for a queen killer. And that’s what I am. After weeks of much calling, emailing and scheduling snafus, yesterday I chanced upon a beek with queens for sale. I was at his place picking up equipment for a new colony of bees that I was picking up today, and we got to talking. Eventually, the conversation turned to my troublesome hive and my fruitless search for a new queen. He just smiled. “I’ve got queens.” So $20 later, I came home with a California bred Italian queen with a pedigree back to the Mayflower, to hear the beek talk about her.

The thing is, you can’t just dump a new queen into an existing hive. The old queen will kill the new one, so the beekeeper has to kill the old one first. I was a little nervous about that aspect of the plan. In a whole year of having inspecting hives, I’ve seen queen signs but I’ve never actually seen their majesties. The bee gods were with me and apparently wanted that hive requeened, for I found her on the second frame I pulled. Twice as large as all the other girls with a long abdomen and a tiny set of wings. A little squish with the fingers and the queen was dead. No heralds. No trumpets. Just drop the corpse back into the hive and leave the bees to mull it over.

The man who sold me the queen told me the hive might be a little cranky today when I went to put in the new queen. Of course, he’d never met my bees. When I went out to the hive today, instead of being cranky, the girls were just hanging out not doing much of anything. There was very little coming and going. Without a boss to give them marching order that bunch of welfare bees didn’t even make a pretense at working. Maybe morale was low. They didn’t so much as lift a wing as I jostled the frames aside to make room for the queen cage. I didn’t even use my smoker.

So she’s in there, my new California queen with the blue blood pedigree, still in her cage. Safe from harm and spreading her scent and hopefully, in a few days, when she’s fully released into the hive, the colony will accept her and she’ll bring order and productivity to my welfare hive.

I can dream, can’t I?

After a week long comedy of errors, trying to procure enough equipment, I finally scraped together enough hive boxes, bottom boards, and tops to accommodate two new hives. I learned of these “nucs” at the Heart of Virginia Beekeepers meeting last week. At $125 for 7 medium frames of bees with a laying queen, I figured that was better deal than the $200 I paid for 5 deep frames last year for the bees that got me started. Plus, I was home fifteen minutes after I picked up my new bees. Last year, it took me four or five hours, each way.

My friends took one hive and I took the other. We are now a three hive family. And a couple of weeks ago, I went out and bought a hard plastic splash pool because the ducks had outgrown the rubber tub we had been offering up as a pond substitute. All five of them will fit, that is, they’ll all fit until the chief drake decides he really needs a proper bath. That boy truly takes his bathing seriously and when he’s about it there’s only room for him in the five duck pond.

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