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Pleased to Meet You, Queen B!

Where the %*$* is she?

I have been a beekeeper for about three and a half years.

For that reason, it is most embarrassing to admit that I have never been  able to spot a queen bee by myself.

In the beekeeping workshops that I’ve attended, queen identification is definitely emphasized.

The instructor always points toward the queen and asks the twenty or so novice beekeepers clustered around “Do you see her?’.  They all nod.

I did see her sometimes but then, when inspecting my own hives the queens were invisible to me.

So I decided that was okay.  I was able to recognize the signs that a queen was in residence.  There were eggs and young larva.  Theworkers were calm.  All was right with the world.

Last month, though, I lost a hive to the dreaded wax moth.  The hive was probably weak to begin with or the wax moths would not have stood a chance.  Maybe the hive had somehow lost its queen.  But then – how would I know?

So I cleaned up the empty brood box and decided to make my first split.   I chose my most productive hive – Queen Elizabeth.  I took frames of honey and frames with brood and placed them in the new box along with the accompanying workers.  I apologized to Queen Elizabeth for the intrusion and backed away.

Then it was up to the workers to raise their own new queen.  I left them alone for a spell and came back in about three weeks to look.  I could not find a queen but I did find some larva and a few eggs.

Aha!! There she is marked with a green circle so that you can find her if you are slow like me.

That was a good sign but sometimes if a queen is not present, a worker can start laying eggs.  That, my friends, is what we beekeepers call a “hot mess”.  A laying worker produces only a few eggs and all of them hatch into drones or boy-bees.  The non-queen will try to kill any legit new queen you might try to install.  The boy-bees won’t forage for nectar or feed the young.  They are slackers – just hanging out doing nothing.  And gradually the hive goes into a downward spiral.

So – I decided to make one more thorough inspection to see what was really going on in the split.

I studied up real good – looked at tons of pictures of queens on the internet.  I noticed that a queen’s abdomen is not just longer than the workers.  It is tapered and segmented.  It reminded me in some ways of a cockroach.

With that image in mind, I inspected each frame this morning and suddenly I saw her!  She was unmistakable!  She was THE queen.

She is Queen Beatrix a.k.a  Queen B and I was very happy to meet her!

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