Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Queen is dead. Long live the Queen.

I captured a swarm this spring, and it turned out to be Africanized.   It is all the queen's fault, because she is the mother of all the mean little heathenish girls in the hive. 

I ordered a new queen, which arrived promptly and in good shape.  Here is the cage she was shipped in.  It is simply stapled to the inside of a paper priority mail envelope and sent off.   There are a few worker bees in there with her, because she can't feed herself, or clean herself, or do any of the other normal maidenly things most bees do..  It takes a while to get a hive to accept a new queen, so the cage has a big blob of candy at one end.  After the bees in the hive eat all the candy, the hole that is left will let the queen escape.  By then, the hive should be used to her distinct pheromone and will accept her as their new matriarch.  I left the queen in her cage, between two frames of honeycomb, where the hive bees can get at the candy and release her

Of course the hive won't accept the new queen if their old, trusted queen is still around, so, I captured the old, Africanized queen with a queen catcher.  You can pick them up with your fingers, but this device is more gentle.  You simply squeeze it to open it, slip it over the top of the queen, and let it close around her.  The slots are scientifically sized so that worker bees can escape, but queens full of eggs cannot.
   After I got her home, I released her on my desk for a publicity shoot.  Queens can fly, but when they are full of eggs like this one is, they are heavy and can't fly very well.  I like queen bees.  They have a beautiful, golden color and seem to glow in the sun.  And they are gentle as little lambs.  Pity her daughters are such nasty brutes.  I let this one run around on my hand and arm for a while, just to prove how gentle and meek they are.  Queen bees never sting to defend themselves.  They are only known to sting other queens.  It is a very good thing they don't sting beekeepers, because they have a wicked long stinger!  But bee stingers are actually ovipositers (that means it is the tube used to lay eggs.)  Worker bees don't oviposit as long there is a queen in the hive, so they are free to use theirs as a stinger.  The queen, though, uses hers for laying eggs, hundreds of times a day this time of year.