Did you know that bees dance in order to communicate where they can find water or good flowers? It’s called the waggle dance.
The other day we went on a search for the queen. As most of you probably know, the queen is at the centre of the colony. No queen, no new bees, no new bees mean nothing will happen, no bees mean sad me.
In general, the queen bee is one of the biggest ones in the colony. She has a larger abdomen; she is surrounded by her workers and she’ll be busy laying. She can lay about 2000 eggs a day when it’s a good day, so she is one busy little bee.
One would think that it’s easy to find the queen. One would be very, very wrong. At least not when you’re new at it and have no idea what you’re doing.
Well, ok no, that’s a lie. I know what I’m doing, I just don’t quite know yet what the correct way to do it is yet. If I didn’t know what I was doing I’d probably feel a lot more stressed when working with these girls but it’s really relaxing, and it’s just fun to watch them at it.
So the other day, before we were going to go out for dinner, my buddy and I decided to look for the queen and mark her. This because that way we’ll have an easier time finding her in the future and in general beekeepers mark their queens to know how old she is.
This would also be the first time I’d open my hive officially. Sure, last week she was opened too to put them in, but this is different. This time it would be the first time opening her up with a purpose, finding the queen.
We started at the back of the hive, these frames had no brood in it but honey and some pollen. Which is good! Means they have a source of food ready for the winter. The next few frames had brood on them, and lots of bees. Seeing that we were basically looking for the biggest of the bunch, it took a bit. Imagine two guys in their beekeeping outfit looking intently at frames. That’s basically what we were doing for a good 20 minutes.
Then came the remark “I think I found her!”
I quickly took out the queen clamp I bought the day before and we got her! Put her in the tube to mark her and boom.
My sister was there to take a few pictures too so she took a picture of our newly marked queen. We were happy and after this could go for dinner.
Were we sure that we had the queen? Not at all, hell in the car we were talking about the fact that we probably marked a normal bee, but if that were to be the case, at least we’ll have had some practise.
During dinner my sister who had stayed at home sent me the same thing we had just been talking about in the car “I don’t think you marked the correct bee”
And then she sent me the photo she took. The photo of the “queen” with the yellow mark on it.
She then sent me the same picture but also circled another bee. I just laughed and showed it to my buddy, who also started laughing.
We had indeed, marked a regular bee.
Normally another buddy of us would have joined us for dinner and we would have hung out for the evening but he ended up not being able to make it so we checked what time sundown was and decided we had a bit of light left over to see if we could find the queen in the last rays of the sun.
We did not!
So, we returned in the morning with one thing on our mind, well two actually. The first one was finding the queen, and the second one was taking something out of the brood box.
See the boxes I bought had this metal strip in the bottom of them to make sure the frames would not move much. This is perfect for when you’re moving your hives, but we noticed in putting the frames back that this was making it super difficult to do it whilst trying not to squish any of the girls.
We first tested our little theory on my spare brood box and then decided to move the frames to the spare, do our little feat of engineering on the other one, and then move the frames back. All the while searching for the queen.
It worked out well, moving the frames to the box without the strip on was a LOT easier to moving them into the one if the strip was on, so after moving most of them and meanwhile looking for the ones with brood on it and new larvae, we spotted what I thought was the queen.
Lo and behold, I was right. I put the tube around her and a few of her friends but due to how heavy these frames are, my buddy lost balance for a second and she was able to escape from the tube again back onto the frame.
No worries, we now know what frame she was on, I quickly changed the rest back over to the normal box and then we searched again.
When I spotted her the second time around, I’m getting better at this, I used the queen clamp, and then from there deposited her in the tube.
You have no idea how nerve wrecking it is to have one of the most important bees in your hive in a tube while you’re trying so hard not to squish her in between a frame and a piece of sponge so you can mark her.
I however, now do know what it feels like.
After marking her we deposited her back on the frame. Well, not before I almost dropped her on the ground but I was able to catch her on time in my gloved hand. And then everyone was happy again!
We now have a marked queen, marked in such a way that normally she won’t have any issues with it. So hopefully we did it right and the bees can live happily again.
During this inspection I did decide that I’m going to have to switch out a few frames. The beekeeper I got this colony from had used a few old frames and you can definitely see that they’re old. But no worries, this will just be another new experience.
Stay tuned o7