Can't Stay Out Of The Hives

I dedicate this entry to Christina, who I inadvertently stood up--I swear I left a message, just on the wrong phone. Here's what kept me away:

A first for me: placing my ungloved hand on top of a brood box loaded with bees, and not having a complete and utter nervous breakdown. When I realized that the Kitty colony was queenless, I tried to purchase a replacement queen but every place I called had just run out of queens. So, I decided to go for the madcap raising an egg from another hive into a queen plan--risky and time consuming, but my only other option was to combine our two hives and I didn't want to do that unless I absolutely had to--the hive would then be just be too high for me to reach and inspect.

I recently made friends with some local beekeepers and was telling them about my problems with Kitty and several of them told me of a man nearby who still had queens for sale, but they warned, I had to get her installed now. I called the number, he said he had what I needed, we made an appointment, and in a warehouse out in undisclosed town that could pass for the picture definition of the boonies, the deal went down. We shook hands, he pulled a small wooden box from his pocket, I pulled some cash from my pocket, and the queen was mine. I put her in Non Birding Bill's pocket and from there we hightailed it out to the Kitty hive to install the new queen.

We threw on the bee suits, NBB lit the smoker (because he is the smoker master), and I gave Mr. Neil the queen for safe keeping. It was late in the day and we had to act fast. The foragers would be back in the hive and those are the most likely to sting you. However, when we opened Kitty, all was surprisingly calm--must be the lack of queen. Mr. Neil took the queen from his pocket and as soon as he took out the box, one of the Kitty bees landed on it. The queen's very first subject! That's it, my pretty, drink in that pheromone, assimilate, assimilate.

Basically, the queen is in a little cage that has a piece of candy covering the opening. When we first put the queen cage in the hive, the workers will want to come and kill the queen--but when they approach, she releases her pheromone and they want to serve her. Her aroma is released through the screen and both she and the other bees chew through the candy to have access to her. Once they get through the candy, they will have worked out their differences and the workers will show the queen around the hive so she can commence laying eggs. Here is the video of attaching the queen cage to one of the frames:

When we pushed in the cage, some of the cells with honey came open and created a small river of honey. In the video, you can see some of the workers start to lap it up. Here's a detailed photo:

Look at the lines of bee proboscis (tongues) lapping up that honey. Feast, my girls, feast. A new queen has arrived to build up your numbers. Some of you readers may be wondering why I went for a whole new queen if we started some eggs growing in a queen cell? Well, that wouldn't yield any new eggs for two weeks, and then it would be another three weeks until those eggs would hatch into new workers. Now, we have a new queen, fully fertilized and ready to lay. She'll need a few days to work her mojo on all the workers, but then she will get to layin' and I'll have new workers in three weeks instead of five weeks, giving them more time to build up food stores for winter.

So for the moment, the workers are all over the queen cage, like ugly on a pig, absorbing her pheromone. More bee madness to come this weekend.