Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Our Local Queen is DEAD!

The western region of the kingdom...
Terrible, sad news.

The Queen is dead. 

There was a great battle.  Her followers put up a valiant defense.  External aid was delivered, but to no avail.  There were too many invaders.  The enemy was hungry and angry.  They were ferocious.

And now She is dead and there is chaos.  It is late.  There doesn't seem to be a new Queen ready to step into the role.  What to do?  What to do? There was destruction and chaos.  All is chaos.

Their ally told me they were a friendly little group and definitely survivors.  But now what, what next step; without their queen what are their chances?

Winter looms large, and the colony is without direction.

I'm talking about the neighboring bee colony. 

There suddenly seemed to be more German hornets around.  Nasty creatures, insects in need of Ritalin; as they charge around from flower to flower never seemingly satisfied with the quality or quantity of pollen and nectar offered.  And always hovering, landing on the edge of a plate, cup, or glass ready to fight to the death at the least provocation. 

The neighboring bee keeper started to notice a plethora of wasps and followed them to their nest.  She is so much more in tune to the ways of pollinators than I.  She discovered they had taken up residence within the south wall of her home.  The buzzing and humming would terrify me.  At about the same time the hornets followed her back to the hive and the battle was on. 

The bee keeper began extermination attempts on the wasp nest, but it is difficult to get near enough to be effective.

The hornets, always looking for the sweetest deal, had discovered the hive and were intent on taking the honey by force.  The worker bees mounted a battle at the entrance.  The bee keeper narrowed the opening, like any good general, so the enemy would enter a single hornet at a time.  The honey bees with their backs to the wall, fought valiantly, but to no avail.

The wasps managed to get to the inner chambers of the hive where the Queen was busy with her important work of laying new eggs and directing the work of the hive.  They killed her quickly and began to pillage the hive's honey.

The bee keeper tells me in the summer the worker bees live just 21 days.  This time of year the life spans stretch out, but that bees really never go dormant as we think of it; a sort of suspended sleep or hibernation.  The workers are busy all winter keeping the queen warm.  This Queen had brought the hive through last winter; something the bee keeper has managed only three times in 15 years here in frozen Wisconsin. 

Many commercial bee keepers winter their hives down south.  This I knew as in my youth Wisconsin was then the number two honey producer in the country and I was a good friend with on of the daughters of the largest honey producers in the state, possibly there largest.  She would often visit Louisiana where they "wintered" their bees.

My neighboring bee keeper says her dad also has a couple hives.  She's going to take her hive there, "The hive still has a lot of bees in it."  Maybe she can re-queen the hive, although it is so late in the year to attempt it, by taking a queen from one of those hives where there is the possibility without the chaos and the destruction caused by the wasps, those bees will make another queen of their own.

I hope the neighborhood gets a new queen.

Long live the Queen!


  1. Oh my goodness! I hope that the beekeeper finds success... this was very interesting as we are about to embark on beekeeping. The DH has made a bear proof enclosure and the hives will be purchased/built this winter. We are hoping to overwinter the bees if we can!

    1. I am very interested on the topic of bee keeping, too, and the whole CCD issue. I have been doing a lot of reading and have had a couple very engaging talks with my neighborhood bee keeper. She also mentioned this has been a light year for honey. I keep wondering if this is why the wasps all act so anxious. last year despite the drought the bees made lots of honey, although I worried about their thirstiness as evident by their hanging out at the B-bar (my bird bath, which I have never seen a bird here use, only pollinators).

      It is distressing that the wasps killed her queen. A hive does not survive without a queen and she reported much chaotic activity among her workers, which I have to interpret as destruction to the egg-laying area, which would make it difficult for the hive to make a new queen for themselves.

  2. Honey bees are as wonderful as wasps are dreadful. I wish your neighbor and the remaining bees great good luck!