Like a virgin

From Simon's beekeeping blog. Comments are welcome via email.


Today's inspection was the first I've ever done entirely by myself. Far from B being someone who watches what we're doing, I realised today that he's a truly helpful assistant, because I found the whole process much harder without him. The smoker went out several times (there are plenty of good guides out there to help with this common problem). Because of that I'd have to wait for the bees to get out of the way in order not to crush any of them. I don't think I did. In any case, they were rather bad-tempered, with a few dive-bombing my face, or buzzing loudly around me, or otherwise trying to get me to shove off.

Anyway. First things first. I think I saw a new virgin queen, as well as one vacated queen cell. One of the bees was 20-30% longer, though no wider than the workers, with a blacker but still yellow-striped abdomen and a larger, shield-like back. There was no band of workers around her — she just moseyed around the central frame, passing among the workers. She looked very much like the queen appearing in this picture by Stephen Boulton, and a lot like most of the other pictures that appear when you do a search. All this is encouraging, but there were no eggs, nor brood nor drawn-out foundation for them to go in. Therefore, I think if she was a queen, she's yet to mate. Drones are a rarer sight now we're coming into autumn, but she may yet find that special someone.

The degree to which the bees are storing all that syrup was striking. Cells of all sorts — capped honey, uncapped honey, even some drips of nectar — covered all five frames, making them so heavy that my thumb joints were aching at the end of the inspection. I mentioned there were no eggs. There's also no room for any eggs with the wall-to-wall winter stores. The bees are forming brace comb on the sixth frame, which I tidied up to their mild annoyance, but drawing nothing out.

All in all, I'm feeling rather positive, but hoping that there are still drones nearby. In the best of circumstances, the hatch-to-lay process of the honeybee mating game is believed to take two to three weeks. Not only must her body harden and her pheromones develop, the weather must be right for the trip to the drone congregation area where she goes to fill her oviducts, perhaps more than once. Around autumn, drones are kicked out of the hive and their re-entry barred, so let's hope there's enough of them still around.

Queen seen?Queen cellsBroodframefuls of stores# available frames for broodHealthEstimated mitesTemper / docilityFeed given# supers addedWeather
C1✔ fairly sure06L71.3l 2:1018°C ☀