An Intrusion in the queen’s private life
This letter was taken from the British Bee Journal of January 1941.Enough has come out of the sale of these Journals from the CBKA Library to justify it. The perusal of these volumes prompted by their purchase by individuals has led to much more interest for the rest of us than if they had lain in musty boxes for another decade or more!
The Young Queen Mated
With my hand resting on a hive, I stood deep in thought, watching the pale flushes of red and lilac in the evening sky. I was thinking of this little blue house and its inmates preparing for the young queen that lay enclosed in her cell. I thought of how little I should know of past mysteries and the wonders taking place within the walls of that hive. I did not feel like a king regarding his subjects, but rather like a man learning with amazement of the nearly perfect social system of a race of pygmies. Yes, it was interesting ! Here was I going to watch the birth of a queen, her marriage, her enormous yielding of new life, and perhaps her death. Yet all I had done was to take a comb of selected eggs and larvae from one hive, drones from another, and the young bees from a third, together with combs of food.
To confound me, at the start the bees ignored my attempt to induce them to prepare queen cells on the bottom of the comb; instead they built two cells, and only two, on its face. Later I removed one.
On July 9 I opened the hive and found the shy princess. So shy was she that she travelled rapidly over the comb that I had constantly to turn it to watch her terrified flight. My admiring glances were wasted on such a coy creature. After a few minutes I withdrew my gaze and left her to her maidenly pursuits. During my examination I saw two drones, heads together, perhaps discussing the merits of the new princess! Yet hosts of others completely ignored her. I had yet to find out how ungallant these drones were !
On the afternoon of the 14th there was much excitement on the alighting board. In fact, it was like the crowds we have seen waiting for our Queen to pass by. The bees were restless, hurrying here and there. Taking short, glad flights and returning to go through the same actions. Many hastened back into the hive, pressing through those that were pouring out. It appeared as if knowing ones—masters of ceremony—came out, put their heads together with the privileged ones in the waiting throng and whispered to them as to how things were moving inside. Perhaps they said, " Yes, she's ready, but you know she's so painfully shy it's a trouble to persuade her to come out."
Twenty minutes went by. Twenty minutes of intense excitement for me, for I had become imbued with their mood. In that time many drones had taken wing. They seemed to clumsily smooth their faces, and just as clumsily fall into flight, I laughed at these would-be burly bridegrooms with their stumbling heaviness. Soon there was even greater excitement, much running in and out of the hive and a general break of the crowd to the edge of the alighting board. Hello, I thought, what's this? Oh, there she is! But before I could get a good look at her ladyship, she was away and lost to sight. It was now that I had doubts about these drones, for not one of those ungallant fellows took wing after the princess. Several came jostling by her in a most ill-mannered way. Surely something wrong, I thought, when drones behave in that self-centred way. I had pictured a great cloud of love-sick drones in pursuit of her royal highness. But no, not one. I was a very disappointed and disgusted man.
Still, what could one expect? I was the uninvited guest; my presence was unpleasing to the crowds, for they tried to bully me off. My face near the alighting board was a perpetual reminder to them of something horrid and leering. Several bees drove at me, buzzed round my face and ears, and once I was stung, but I refused to move.
The princess came back unmated. Three wedding flights were made that day at roughly hourly intervals. But each time she returned without showing any sign of mating. Oh, those stupid drones !
The next four days were wet and cold, and she was confined to her palace.
On July 19, 20 and 21 I watched the same crowds, the same excitement, and had a further good view of three more flights of the princess. But, oh, those terrible drones, those fellows with hearts of stone! Not one pursued her ! The 22nd came along and apparently still no mating. I began to doubt my eyesight; I could not believe that such a condition of things could go on in such a well-ordered community, so I opened the hive. Yes, there was the shy princess still tearing across the comb. Over, under she went, weaving her patterns of restlessness. Not a sign that she had mated, and still hundreds of stony parading drones. Yet all the time I felt that they may be quietly amused at the impetuous fool who wished to hurry one of them to his doom.
The next three days were cold, and few bees were flying.
Again on July 26 I impatiently watched the alighting-board excitement, again the princess flew and all were there to celebrate, but there was no celebration. Still she came back unmated. This time, it is true, two or three drones took wing at the same time that the queen left. But that is all I can depressingly report.
For the next ten days I was reluctantly drawn away from home. But it did not stop me picturing all the excitement and pageantry of the royal wedding. It did not stop me wondering if those drones were not coldly teaching the queen algebra, or some other foolishness, forgetting to become excited about a wedding.
However, on August 5 I was at home again, and at the first opportunity the roof was off that hive. Oh yes, I had intended watching every movement of the queen, every movement of the drones, and taking copious and, I hope, coldly scientific notes of the mating, but what a farce I had made of it!
The drones were not the villains of the piece, and apparently neither was the queen unwilling, for there in the hive was a comb partly filled with eggs, and there was a much less elusive royal lady.
As I put back the roof of the hive I could have sworn I heard subdued chuckles of laughter, but it must have been imagination. It will be unnecessary to remind anyone that bees are wonderful little people, and that the most amazingly foolish person was,
A. J. EMMS.
December 29. 1940.
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- Do drones need more energy than workers ?
- What is the Catenary HIve ?
- An Intrusion Into The Private Life of the Queen
- A Cheshire System of Beekeeping
- Artificial Swarming to make Increase
- Re-queening An Aggressive Colony
- Frames and Frame-spacing
- An Early Spring Tonic Part 1
- An Early Spring Tonic Part 2
- Something To Consider - Treating Hives
- Make up Of Honey
- Brainbox Bees
- An Inspector Calls
- The Laws Of Beekeeping
- TBS versus BBS
- Colony Records
- My First Season With Bees
- Integrated Pest Management Workshop
- BBKA Examination System
- Will Your Bees Survive this Winter?
- Anaphylactic Shock - What to do!
- Anaphylactic Shock - A Personal Experience
- Beekeeping Records
- L. L. Langstroth's - BEE-KEEPER'S AXIOMS
- Osmia Rufa
- Beginner's Corner - Out-apiary sites
- Beginner's Corner - Syrup feeders