Cross your fingers or feelers, as applicable

Queen cage

Her Highness

Hive check on Sunday: no eggs, no larvae, all the capped brood (i.e., gestating baby bees) had hatched out.

It’s been three weeks, more or less, since we’ve seen an egg.

The colony is in free fall. The existing bees can only live so long. They’ll work with bee dedication to collect pollen and nectar and make honey, but without a laying queen the colony is doomed.

M called our local bee mentor; he said, “Find a queen as soon as you can.” But he said all the queens he had were spoken for. Then he called back. He’d found an unaccounted for queen, bred, marked with a green dot, and ready to go.

Down we sped to his house, the sky blackening behind us. By the time we had the queen (in her wooden cage, along with half a dozen attendants) in our hands, the rain was coming down as if the sky’s taps had been opened all the way.

Home through the storm, listening to music on the car stereo (do bees hear music? I know they sense the vibrations, but what do they make of it?).

It was too stormy that night to consider opening the hive, so Elspeth II and her entourage spent the night in our kitchen. They had a block of candy on one end of the cage to snack on. We put a small drop of water on the screen covering the cage for them to sip.

Yesterday we opened the hive and placed the closed cage on top of the frames, to see what the bees would do. If they flocked to cage (drawn by the queen’s pheromones) and were docile, then they would likely accept her. If they had managed to raise their own queen, lurking somewhere in the hive and not laying (unbred, unable?), then they would attack and kill the new queen.

The bees seemed accepting. They weren’t clinging to the cage or trying to sting her. We uncorked the candy end of the cage, made a little hole in the candy, then pressed the cage between two thickly-combed frames.

We closed the hive.

And we shall see what we shall see in three days’ time.