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Monday, July 10, 2017

Bee Important! Bee Special!

I went out to my small apiary for an inspection of my hives.  I wanted to make certain everything was okay. 

The bees had been a little grumpy for about a week.  Every time I went outside, I’d get escorted back to the house by one or two bees.  I was wondering what was going on.  Was it the cloudy weather?  Were we in a dearth?  Was the queen still there?

There is nothing I can do about bad weather.  But, if we were in a dearth, and the nectar had stopped flowing, I could feed my bees some sugar water to get them by.  If the queen was gone?  Well, I could buy them a new queen.  So, I needed to go into the hives and see what was going on.

I lit my smoker and walked over to the hive. I gently puff a bit of smoke in the front entrance, first, to calm the bees.  Then I lift the outer cover and puff a bit of smoke in from the top.  I pull off the outer cover and pop up the inner cover a bit.  I push a little smoke into the top of the hive.  The bees should be calm and relaxed by now, as they busily fill their tummies with honey.

After setting the smoker down, I pull the inner cover all the way off and peer down into the top bars of the medium honey super.  The bees are working hard. And there are lots of them.  I can tell that this must be a healthy hive.

I pull a few frames out of the super and look them over.  There are three frames that have been fully drawn with comb.  Each cell has been packed to capacity with nectar that has been turned into honey and then capped.  I take a moment to admire beautiful white capped comb.  White, yet translucent.  And I can see the amber light glowing through the frame of honey.

A peek at the rest of the frames in the super, and between the frames down into the brood box and I can tell the bees have plenty of stores.  The dearth hasn’t started, yet.  It is time to look for the queen.

I finish my inspection of the honey super and then add a little more smoke.  Then I use my hive tool to help me pry the honey super away from the deep brood box.  The bees have glued the two boxes together with propolis.  I must wedge my hive tool between the boxes and lift one corner slightly.  Then I go to a second corner.  I hear a crack and a pop, and I know the two boxes are unglued.  Now, I can pull the super off the brood box.

I set the honey super aside and begin my search for the queen in earnest.  As I lift out the first frame, a few bees detach themselves and begin to buzz around me, getting in my face.

“Hey buddy!  What in the Hive are you doing here?”

“Yeah,” I hear from a second voice.  “This is private property!”

“Get lost!” a third voice chimes in.

I’m startled!  I’ve heard of other beekeepers telling me that their bees talk to them.  But, I’ve always thought they meant figuratively, not literally.

“Well,” I say, somewhat hesitantly, “I’m looking for the queen.”

“The Queen?” the boldest of the three bees says.  “Why is always the queen that people want to see?”

I tried to explain “She’s the most important bee in the hive.  She keeps everyone working.  She lays the eggs that makes other bees.”

“Ha!” exclaimed Bee One, the bold girl.  “All she does is walk around all day sticking her fat butt into the cells we’ve made.  The cells we keep clean.  She doesn’t even feed herself.  We do that!”

Emboldened by her sister, Bee Two chimes in, “We pamper that girl even before she’s born.  She gets a queen-sized cell to pupate in.  And she gets extra food to eat.  No bee bread for that baby girl!  She gets fed Royal Jelly.  Nothing but the good stuff.”

Bee Three can’t hold her tongue anymore.  “And when she comes out of the cell, do you know what she does?  Nothing!  For two weeks, she does nothing at all.  Just marches around the hive, acting all important.

“Do you know what I did when I first came out of my cell?  I got down on my bee’s knees and scrubbed out the floor of my own cell.  And my sisters’ cells.  Before I even had my first meal, I was cleaning out cells.  And I’ve been working hard every day of my life ever since.”

“But,” I protested, “there is only one queen and there are tens of thousands of you.  The queen really is special.”

“Special?  Can she gather nectar and pollen?” asked Bee One.

“Can she make wax and build comb?” asked Bee Two.

“Can she guard the entrance and fight off intruders?” asked Bee Three.

“Can she turn nectar into honey?” asked Bee One.

“NO!” the three bees sing in unison.

“Look at how beautiful she is,” I begin “with that long golden abdomen and her shiny thorax.  The rest of you all look the same.  Your just normal, everyday worker bees.  If I met you out in the yard, I couldn’t tell one of you from the other.  In fact, I can’t keep track of just three bees as you go buzzing in circles around my face.  How am I supposed to pick out one bee out of 20 or 30 thousand bees?”

“We are more special and more necessary than the queen!” declared Bee One … or was it Bee Three?  I’m not sure.

“Let me give you something to remember me by,” said Bee Two.

“Me too,” said Bee Three.

“Me three,” said Bee One.

And that’s when they stung me.  One on the hand.  Two stung me on the knee.  And Three nailed me on my nose.

Nope.  I’ll never forget those three bees.  They were very special bees.

But I still think the queen is the most Important bee in the hive.

… Wait!  Do you hear a buzzing sound?