In the week of the Chilcot Inquiry it seemed appropriate to talk about regime change. No this hasn’t suddenly become a political blog, although when we marched in London against the invasion of Iraq back in 2003 in what was probably the largest protest march in UK history we knew Tony Blair was lying, we knew it was an illegal war, a war in which hundreds of thousands of innocent people would be killed, a war that would have the potential to wreak havoc and destruction on a region for decades – that is after all why we marched. And for the record, I do think Blair is a war criminal and he should answer in a court of law for the deaths and suffering that arose from his spectacularly malevolent and Machiavellian decision.
Anyway when bees go about regime change it is a little less brutal, a little more organised and doesn’t involve lying and manipulating – well actually it might, I have no idea what they actually tell the old queen as they are busy building the cell in which they will raise up her daughter who will take over from her. Maybe there is a political elite among the worker bees who make up stories about wasps (or woodpeckers) of mass destruction in order to get the other workers on board and support the coup …. who knows.
Before I left for Orford in the chaos of everything I had to do, I decided on a whim to spin off some more honey from the wonderful Hive 1. For the record these guys are the best hive that I have, hardworking super bees. Most of the honey I have this year has come from them. The rest are all swarmy slackers.
Anyway, while having a bit of a check I noticed this: a sealed queen cell in the middle of a frame of brood. There were eggs on this and other frames which means the queen must still have been around in the last three days – after three days the eggs become little larvae.
I nearly knocked it down, but then something stopped me. Often, but not always, if the hive is going to swarm, they tend to do so before the queen cell is sealed (I think – but really what do I know, I am after all a spectacularly bad beekeeper). It was also the only sealed queen cell and it was build on the frame of brood. If you find a single queen cell and it is in on the frame, rather than along the edge it is often (but not always) a sign of supersedure rather than swarming. That is the workers have decided that a bit of regime change is in order – they want a new queen as there is something wrong with the old one.
Who am I to argue with the bees, I left them to it.
I took some honey off – I hope I didn’t take it off too early – it wasn’t capped, but I was worried that it might have the last of the rape in it and it would set in the frames if left too long. It is darker than the rape honey and hasn’t set yet. It is lovely. I got 7lbs which takes my total now to about 40lbs of honey.
N.B. Why wasps or woodpeckers of mass destruction? Well as any hive will tell you, they are the bogeyman of the bee world. It is the wasps and woodpeckers that pose a ‘ real and imminent threat’ to the safety of the hive which is why I wrap my hives in chickenwire every autumn and put entrance blockers on the hives in late summer. You can have good defences, but that doesn’t mean you get to indulge in pre-emptive defence – or in less slippery terminology, you don’t get to go out of your way to kill wasps and woodpeckers – or invade other countries – just saying …..
N.B. You can see little eggs and larvae in the close-up photo of the queen cell.