So far this year I have been struggling with my bees. I am not alone, I am pleased to say, which is of some comfort to a beekeeper as it can become very disheartening when you are trying your hardest and doing everything you think you should be doing and you end up with one fairly strong hive, two weak ones and no queens. So I thought very hard and decided the best course of action would be to combine the two weak hives and pray that with all the shenanigans that had been going on with artificial swarms and stealing eggs from one hive to give to another to develop queen cells, this would be the best course of action on my next hive inspection.
I felt I had given them enough time to sort themselves out. I had been patient and they had had their chances and they had well and truly blown them. The time had come to step in and take action! So up I went to the Apiary armed with all the equipment I would need and plenty of time to carry out the required operations...
Arrested in my footsteps as I approached my first hive, by the sight of an orange coloured insect, somewhat larger than the honeybees going in and out of the entrance, I held my breath. Was it a hornet? Please God no! I took a step back and watched as this orange, torpedo shaped thing tried to enter the hive. It wasn't a hornet, it wasn't big enough. I stepped forward and looked closer. Good Lord - it was the queen -
Now let me tell you. the queen only leaves the hive twice in her lifetime. Once on an orientation flight just after she is born and then again to mate with the drones, (the male bees). She returns to the hive and does not leave again until she is either forced out by the other bees, (a swarm), or dies and therefore rolled out by an undertaker bee! So to actually witness a mated queen entering the hive is extraordinary. Mated? I hear you ask. Yes. She was quite big! I was beside myself with excitement. Maybe you have to be a beekeeper to appreciate that! I was feverish, fired up, frantic, high, hot, in a tizzy... no really I am just going thesaurus now! But honestly I was excited!
I stayed still and watched for a moment as she hovered at the entrance, flew up and then back down and then she seemed to fly backwards and return to the entrance and hover once again. Was I disturbing her by being too close? I took a step back. She went through the same little performance so I gently took my iphone from my pocket and zoomed in as much as I thought would allow for a decent image and pressed the shutter. With that she disappeared inside. I had actually seen with my own eyes a mated queen return to her hive. Now I have had a queen be born in my hand while holding a queen cell just removed from a frame. I have even heard the queen tooting like a trumpet heralding her own birth. I have, that is no lie, it is what she does and I have heard it. I am not making it up! But to see it her come back from her mating flight and go in the hive was something else! And below.. here it is.. the picture I managed to take.
By the way all three hives had queens, Gawd bless 'em, they had sorted themselves out in the end and no need to interfere. Patience, that is what is required as a beekeeper, patience and keeping your nerve!