Now, listen up, ladies and gentlemen, this is all so very important. It is all good and well that that love for making your own honey is starting to grow on you. I am also really glad that, so far, I have managed to stimulate your interest in this worthwhile hobby – I know I have done a nice enough job, just from reading some of your comments, thanks so much for these, by the way, it is really appreciated. It’s good to be able to also start with a practical checklist to help you on your way, isn’t it?
And I’m glad I had the opportunity to showcase my demonstrative skills with regard to providing you with a short summary on the bee’s anatomy. That, my friends, is just something that cannot be ignored. It’s so important that you know what to expect from your bees, otherwise how are you going to ever produce that perfect pot of succulent honey, which is very healthy for you, I might add. But where do these bees come from?
Where do they originate? And how can it be that only one unique bee is the creator of those bees? One thing this mother of all bees is so regally grateful for is the nectar and pollen that comes from our trees and plants. Without these, there would be no bees. And without bees, there would be no honey for us. But let us expend a few short lines on the mysterious world of the queen bee. Let us see if we can learn something new from this brief tour.
When I was starting out in my hobby I wondered where the queen bee came from originally. Surely there must have been a mother before her? And it also takes two to tango, right? In her case, she is tangoing with many at any given time during the reproductive season. I also learnt that the queen bee is not entirely in control of her surroundings. She is quite far down the line where dependency is concerned. She is fully reliant on her worker bees to ensure her own survival and safekeeping.
And as beekeepers, we are the ones that control the domestic hive. Commercial hives are another story altogether. While you can expect a successful hive to have a population of anything from twenty-thousand bees, including the queen, imagine the scale of the commercial enterprise. It’s completely out of her control. Like all species, ageing is part of the bees’ life. Ageing is also beyond the control of the queen.
But when she starts to degenerate, her loyal, hard-working foot soldiers are already paving the way for her heiress. There’s a distinct selection process underway. And at the end of that, the most fertile is selected to take over from the old queen. Let’s just say that this bee empire does not waste time where succession is concerned. By the time the virgin queen is ready to mate, the soldiers are in the final throes of putting her majesty, the queen bee to sleep.
Our gardens and surrounding climate are vital for creating the perfect conditions for the new queen to begin laying her eggs. Young, she is protein-rich, having been fed royal jelly by the soldiers. She is also sexually mature. While she is still developing, she spends her days in her queen cell. If for some reason, the process of reproduction is sensed to be slow, emergency queens are standing by. Yes, you heard right, this industrious hive of bees has a backup plan.
While you are in control of your hive, you can stimulate the reproductive processes, if necessary (but this is highly unlikely), your work is made lighter, thanks to these bees. Thanks to them, the queen is always protected, excepting of course, when she has to prepare for death. The worker bees surround her queen cell with beeswax. By the time the virgin queen is ready to begin her reign, the old queen must make her way out of the cell.
Where you are in control of events sometimes requires cruelty. But the bees are pragmatic. All they are concerned about is keeping their empire alive and to do that, they must have a ready-made queen to lay thousands of eggs. To escalate the old queen’s redundancy, you can even snip off one of her legs. This debilitates her ability to lay eggs. If it’s not you that is doing this cruel deed, worker bees will be lying in wait to kill their queen.
I could have told you so much more, and believe me, there is, but I would need to fill another blog with such information. I do hope that these few notes at least fascinated you and stimulated your newfound interest in beekeeping.