Last year, one of beekeeper Karla’s three hives, operated more as a science project than for food production, lost a queen. This would make it die out because the queen is the only one who lays eggs and thus produces offspring. I got a new one from a supply company in Clayton. We were in lockdown, but emergency trips were permitted. The new queen did fine during the motorcycle trip back to Baldwin. However, at the end of September, she abruptly left the blue hive along with all her followers.
Karla found the reason for the Harley Queen’s departure. It turned out that wax moths had invaded, soiling and vandalizing the premises and making it impossible for the bees to continue their orderly lifestyle.
Bees recognize their hive by smell. Humans distinguish colors more easily. The vacated blue boxes were thoroughly cleaned and moth-proofed. Next to it, a unit made from yellow boxes was busy and productive. A little farther away and higher off the ground to prevent moth invasion was Karla’s latest experiment in housing construction. It’s a huge honeybee condominium with multiple entrances, progressive space arrangements and colorful comic strip characters painted on the outside. Throngs of bees waited to pass inside through their security checkpoints next to Winnie the Pooh’s likeness.
To revive the blue hive, Karla transferred a few frames of bees from the yellow unit to the blue, making sure there were young baby cells on them. The worker bees would grow one of them into a new queen.
By early summer of this year, lots of new bees were happily flying out and returning to “Blue” with bags full of pollen.
Unfortunately, in the crowded confusion of a thick pile of bees being relocated, “Queen Yellow” also ended up in the blue hive. This got the resident workforce of “Yellow” in trouble, as they now found themselves without leadership. Occupancy of the yellow boxes declined. By June of this year, only a small contingent of bees from the yellow hive were still active.
This required another transplant, performed very carefully from Winnie the Pooh’s hive. The yellow boxes received baby cells and a set of blank frames. On July 4th, the hive celebrated its own Independence Day when Karla spotted a young, beautiful queen in there. New honeybees are now emerging, flying off to work. Our learning experience about these incredibly sophisticated insects continues.
Rudi Kiefer, Ph.D., is a professor emeritus of physical science at Brenau University His column appears Sundays and at gainesvilletimes.com.