Off With Her Head!

The dandelions and trees are in full bloom!

As much as I dislike (and my husband down right HATES) the mock cherry tree in our front yard, its blooms are the first large source of nectar in our yard.  So it gets a pass…for now.

For the past week it has been buzzing loudly like it is about to take off!  I decided it was a good time to take a peak inside the hives.

There are three things you have to remember when playing with thousands of bees.

1) You will want to do everything fast, DON’T.

The faster you move the more bees you injure and kill the more “WE ARE UNDER ATTACK!!! get ’em” -pheromone they release and more agitated the hive becomes.    This is much easier said then done.

2) Be patient.  It takes time for the smoke to have its desired effect (mimicking a forest fire so they all gorge on nectar) every time you do something take an extra second before moving to the next step.  Be efficient but it’s not a race.

Remember if someone ripped the roof off our house and started pushing all your rooms around you might get pretty pissed too.  Move slowly and deliberately, be aware of your tools.

2) Frame gripes are amazing! Especially since I like to work without gloves.  These little dojamers make it much easier to grab and lift the frames.

$12.65 is worth it!


First things first-I removed the feeding buckets.

That little bit of comb had been attached to the queen cage but I removed it.
That little bit of comb had been attached to the queen cage but I removed it.

Both hives have drawn out most of the bottom frames and are ready for a new box with fresh foundation.  I saw they both had plenty of nectar and pollen so I felt they have found sufficient food sources and are well on their way, I hope.




The frames make cool stained glass.  The picture doesn’t quite show all the colors of pollen because of the backlighting.  I saw every shade, from blueish grey to bright orange.



Look at those saddlebags!
Look at those saddlebags!

After that the two hives diverged in a pretty significant way.  I only found one queen.


Can you find her?

MIddle left with the HUGE butt.

There was plenty of eggs, larva and capped brood.  A very good sign.




Hive #2 was a different story.  Though it had the same if not more workers, nectar and pollen- it differed from the first hive in a VERY important aspect.  I couldn’t locate the queen.  Two weeks ago I found her with no problem.

The second hive made my job difficult because (I must have left just a smudge too much space in the middle of the frames) they build out a double layer of comb making a little cave I couldn’t see into.

DSCF6594 DSCF6592


What I could see on the outside worried me.  Queen cells.

I even found one that looked like it had hatched.


you can see a long broken open tube. in the top middle.
you can see a long broken open tube. in the top middle.


There were at least 3 other capped queen cells on this side of the frame I could see.



You can see they open at the bottom and not on the sides like the other cells.  Since they are on the bottom of the comb (I am holding the frame sideways)  it could be that the workers decided they did not like their new queen and superseded her.

It could also mean that I squished her last time I was in there, or she fell prey to something else.

I take a tinny bit of solace because they appear to have made the cells ahead of time.

When a queen is lost by accident they convert an existing cell with a newly laid egg INTO a queen cell.

When they decide to swarm (not likely here) or supersede they make a cell on the bottom of the comb and force her to lay in it.  Then she when new queens emerge they killer her.

I watched a worker on the top face of this comb emerging from her cell.  I thought that was pretty cool.  It also told me that she was laid 21 days ago.

See her? Just a little bee head poking out.
See her? Just a little bee head poking out.

The queen only take 16 days to hatch so I know I had a laying queen 16 days ago.  I didn’t find any eggs or uncapped larva so I pretty sure if I lost her it was more than two weeks ago.

If the broken queen cell I saw was a successful hatch she may have been on her mating flight.  BUT since the other queen cells still seemed uncompressed this is less likely.

After a virginal queen is born, her first order of business is to take out the competition.  She will eat through the other queen cells and sting her rivals to death.  Pretty bad ass for your first few hours of life.

After killing her sisters, she will mature in the hive for a few more days before starting her orientation flights and eventually her mating flight.

Yep, when a queen is born she starts with murder and quickly moves on to loosing her virginity to anywhere between 30-300 drones.  Then comes home pregnant.

And you thought your teenage daughter was bad.  It could be worse, she could be a queen bee.

Since I still had 3 unhatched queen cells and no sign the emerged queen I will just have to wait and see.  None of these signs match any of the posibliites exactly,  this could be interesting!

As usual- we will see.


4 Comments on “Off With Her Head!

  1. This is a fascinating post! I love learning about bees. I’m not sure if I will ever keep bees. To be honest, they kind of frighten me and I think my fear would prevent me from caring for them properly. But they are amazing and wonderful creatures. I can’t wait to hear more about your hives!


    • Thank you! I am not going to lie it is hard to make yourself to mess around with tons of stinging things, but they ARE that fascinating. Just the basic functioning of the hive is astounding and amazing to observe. I am often shocked at how mellow they can be when you are ripping everything apart and dinking with it. They just fly around you going about their business. My bee mentors said in the first class, there are ‘bee keepers’ and ‘bee havers’ I am in my second year of attempted bee keeping it is ever-interesting. Thanks for reading!


  2. Pingback: Long live the queen! | Wicked Rural Homestead

  3. Pingback: Just a Spoon Full of Honey – Wicked Rural Homestead

What say you?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: