We regret to announce …

Unfortunately, the past 3 weeks of beekeeping have not been trouble free and I have lost Laura, my queen.  The fault is all mine and stems from my decision to purchase a Langstroth hive rather than the more common hive for amateur beekeepers, the Modified National Hive.

Without being too technical, after a week I noted that the colony was not expanding onto the new wax frames. They were not drawing out the comb to prepare the cells for the queen to lay her eggs.  I thus took the decision to separate the queen from the original brood frames in the hope that within a couple of days this would encourage the worker bees to start drawing out the new frames.  To my despair, 8 days later I noted that not only had no frames been drawn, but that there were 8 capped queen cells on the original brood frames.  This suggested that the colony had concluded that the queen had either left the colony or become infertile as she was no longer laying eggs.  They had not taken the hint to prepare the new frames to allow her to lay eggs.  Accordingly the colony had taken action to breed several new queens by converting worker bee larvae into queen larvae.  I destroyed the queen cells and hoped for the best, but a few days later it was clear that my worst fears had been realised.  The new frames remained undrawn and Laura was definitely not there.  Furthermore, my normally extremely well tempered bees had become demons and clearly wished me harm (although I avoided being stung).

With the help of a more experienced beekeeper, I have now introduced a fresh frame of uncapped eggs and larvae so that the colony can raise a few of them as queens from the outset.  I should find out in a week’s time whether the plan has worked and in the meantime must continue to destroy any “converted” queen cells.  Should this plan work then the first “Dunscar reared” queen to hatch will then sting the other queen larvae to kill them and prevent the birth of a rival.  Nature can be cruel sometimes.

Apart from losing the queen, the colony seems to be managing quite well.  The workers are busy foraging for nectar and pollen and seem to love the bright orange pollen of our Erysimum.  It is fascinating to watch them fly back with their leg sacs bulging with this distinctive pollen.  They are clearly taking advantage of a few perks in being sited on a garden centre.