In my last blog I described how we accidentally removed our queen bee while checking the hive (experienced bee-keepers will be shaking their heads and sucking in through gritted teeth). Amazingly, several hours later, we found queeny wandering about under the hive and popped her back in. She seemed very keen to go home, but did she survive?
When we next checked the hive we failed to find our queen and the time after that we failed to find any eggs or larvae (called ‘brood’) so our royal egg-layer had defintely disappeared. Did her workers kill her when she returned to the hive? Did they see her (or more likely, smell her) as an intruder? Or did she leave to set up home elsewhere? Doubtful, but our next-door-neighbour did phone while we were away to say that there was a swarm of bees in a tree close to our hive. I guess we’ll never know. What we do know is that it is the bees who are in charge — not us!
However, over millions of years, bees have evolved a strategy to deal with missing queens. What do they do? They make a new one, of course! A queen cell is built and the larva is fed on royal jelly. 16 days later a queen bee emerges. We were disappointed not to see any brood on our last inspection but we did find an empty queen cell . . .
. . . and hoped that, although we couldn’t find the new queen, she might be on the premises ready to mate and start laying eggs. After all, the hive was still busy with workers both inside . . .
. . . and outside, too.
It wasn’t dead yet.
“It’s very unlikely!” is what we’ve been advised. Still, we thought we’d check our hive this morning to see if by some miracle there was a new queen on the throne.
But today, for the first time in weeks and WEEKS, it is raining and we can’t check our bees. If it’s dry tomorrow we’ll take a look and in the meantime, although it’s probably too late, I’ve ordered a new queen (£40). I’ll let you know how we get on in the next blog.
LEAF-CUTTER IN DA HOUSE!
Our beehive might be in trouble but I’m pleased to say that my homemade beehouse has, at last, got some tenants. Look at this lovely leaf-cutter bee I videoed in action!
Note her orange bum! These are hairs forming a pollen brush for storing pollen (unlike many other bees that store their pollen in pollen baskets on their hind legs).
This leaf-cutter is a solitary bee. She will wallpaper the insides of the bamboo tube before laying an egg and leaving a dinner of pollen and nectar for the larva to feed on when it hatches. The green cell is then sealed with a disk cut from a leaf — hence the name.
This egg-laying process is repeated along the tube. If you look above the leaf-cutter bee in the video you will see that she’s already filled one length of bamboo and glued it shut with a leaf disk.
You can find instructions for making a solitary bee house in my latest Bee Boy title — book 2 published August 2nd 2018
Here’s a cropped illustration of my bee house . . .
. . . but you will have to buy the book to find out how to make it!