Thursday, June 18, 2009

Bees in My Britches

Queen bee survived the night in her cage and then I installed her in the hive at The Spring Gardens yesterday. All in all things went smoothly with a couple of small bumps on the way. Following the instructions of the bee supplier, the first order of business was to find and then destroy any queen cells that these workers had made in an effort to make themselves a new queen. When I installed the bees in this hive - 5 days prior - there weren't any queen cells at all, so it would be interesting to see how many there were - if any.

I had to go though each frame and look closely - if I missed any queen cells, there is a good chance that the bees would kill the queen that I was about to re-introduce to them. I could have just let the bees raise their own, new queen, but the hive would have lost a lot of population and time in that process. Well, there were plenty of queen cells - the bees had been busy. I found at least a dozen.

Here are some examples of what a queen cell looks like - the big droopy cell in the middle is a capped queen cell (just a reminder - ya gotta enlarge these shots - click on them - very cool!) -

A few more queen cells - there are 3 in this photo -

The one here is an uncapped queen cell - it is not as far along in its development as the capped cells. Look closely in the cup and you can see the larvae in the cell - when it gets to a certain stage of development, the bees will cap the cell and the queen will start to change into a pupa -

Exploded view - after I opened the queen cell. The white liquid surrounding the larvae is "bee milk". Also in this photo, you can see worker larvae (towards the bottom right corner) and directly above that, the little pea-shaped capped cell is a drone brood cell (drones are much bigger than workers, so their cells are bigger too) -

One more view (this was one of the most developed queen larvae) -

The bees were very calm in general - which is pretty amazing given what I was doing to their hive. I was in the hive for a good 20 minutes. There were a lot of bees flying around me because I had to brush them off the frames in order to find all of the queen cells.

So, I'm going about my business when, at one point I felt a tickling sensation on my chest - I thought, hmm kinda feels like a bee in there (I was wearing 2 long sleeved shirts and my veil). I remember thinking to myself "Stay calm" and somehow I did. I walked a few feet from the hive and pulled my shirt up - there she was, a bee crawling around on my hairy chest! That kind of got my adrenaline up a little!! But, not as high as it would go a few minutes later...

After shooing the bee out of my shirt, I went back to work. About 5 minutes later, I felt another tickling - this time, on my upper thigh - way too close to my crotch!! I thought I was just beeing paranoid after the first incident - but I was not about to take my chances on this one. So once again, I stepped away from the hive, dropped trou, and lo and behold - there was a bee crawling around on my skivvies!! Yikes!! I quickly flicked her off, checked for friends, then closed up my pants!! Now my heart was pumping pretty good! I didn't really believe it when I heard that bees like to crawl up pants - but now, call me a Believer!

Somehow I managed to finish what I needed to do - which was to destroy the queen cells and then install the new queen cage. The bees in the hive will release the queen over the course of a few days by eating the candy filling and opening a hole in the queen cage. Amazingly, I got no stings (praise the lord!). I got in my car, pushed in the clutch and my leg was shaking from being so amped up!!

But, really, I am having fun!!


  1. Adam,
    GREAT pictures. You've got a steady hand and a good macro setting. I always wore long pants tucked into my socks and never got stung on the leg until two weeks ago when I neglected to tuck them in. Dang! Those stings are itchy aren't they?

    Anyway, I really like your blog, thanks for joining my facebook group!


  2. thanks dave -

    yeah those stings are itchy!

    this hive is so calm that i was able to take my time with the photos - i was pleased with how they came out. I was working them today with no protection at all.
    talk to you-