Chasing queens and basket ball playing bees.

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House Bee
Mar 16, 2009
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Shropshire, UK
Hive Type
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The last few days for me seem to have been dominated by queens . Saturday morning I went to look at a colony that I was given. I have told been told always take your queen marking equipment if there is an unmarked queen, just in case you spot her.
Down at the farm I opened up the crownboard and the bees were a lot quieter than previously - they had been real chasers. Even the propolis did not seem as sticky. It seemed like there was about 5 million bees in there. The I spotted the big, fat dark queen. So I reached in my pocket with one hand, the other hand was holding the frame and I was trying to keep my eye on the queen who was now sprinting around the frame. I dragged out the press in queen cage which still had the little bits of polystyrene on the points, so was flicking them off with one finger, and one little ball of polystyrene bounced on the top of the frames and fell down btween the frames. Meanwhile the queen flipped over the far side of the frame hopped off and disappeared into the seething mass of bee beneath. So that was that. I know enough to know that once they know they have been spotted they make themselves well hidden.
Then I notice.d the little ball of polystyrene -it had appeared at the top of a frame of bees and was bobbling around, it would disappear out of sight and then reappear again. It moved down the frame of bees and then back again and then started moving back. How they knew who was on which team I don't know cause they all look the same to me.
Eventually someone must have scored cause the bit of polystyrene ended up on the flat top of the frame. :)
In the afternoon went to association meeting at a member's apiary. He needed to find an unmarked queen that was proving difficult to find. His technique was to chuck all the bees on to a sheet with something for them to cluster under. He then remembered he needed his marking equipment and while he was getting it i spotted the queen. People shouted for me to catch her. So I ended up juggling a queen bee from one cupped hand to the other as she ran as fast as she could. eventually she was marked and put back in the colony.
This morning a new Carniolan queen arrived in the post so i had to seperate her from her attendants before inserting the cage in the hive. I decided to use the bathroom for this procedure. I moved anything i thought she might hide in and stuffed toilet paper in the overflows on the sink and bath and put the plugs. I would open the cage in a plastic bag using bare hands and bare sleeves. When i eventually prised open the cage the attendants very sensibly flew to the top of the bag and buzzed. The queen meanwhile did a U turn, ran up my arm and out of the bag and took to the air. I must say that flying queens cant be easy pickings for a passing bird. She would have made an air ace envious with her aerial acrobatics. I then proceeded on a 5 minute chase. She went for the frosted window and could easily dodge me trying to get her back in the queen cage. In the end I put the inside of a toilet roll above her, she flew in, I put a hand underneath and eventually coaxed into a partly closed cage held above -but it took a few goes, she was a craftly little queen. And then she was presented to her new court.
So there we are. I am brilliant at spotting queens if they are not my own. I have found that queens can run like little athletes and can fly better than other bees. Also my bees have previously unknown knack for ball games. Interesting few days.
Thanks for that Geoff, that made me chuckle.

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