a french garden

Reflections on nature in a garden in France

A queen is born

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There are several aspects of beekeeping that I find quite fascinating.

Opening a hive gives me an immediate idea of how the entire colony is behaving.  Last week, for example, Amelia and I opened the hive with the swarm that we had captured on 31st March.   Straight away we could see that in the intervening two weeks, the colony had build up wax on all ten frames and were evidently quite busy.  That for us was already a good sign.

 

Opening a hive

Lifting a frame one by one we saw that they had made plenty of honey in reserve and had nice closed brood cells.  Brood cells for the (female) worker bees have a uniform roundness to them

bees around closed brrod cells

In the middle we could see one or two larvae not yet closed.  The bees were busy feeding the young larvae.

I love looking  at the different colour of pollen stocked fairly close by the brood cells for the nurse bees to use, feeding the young larvae.

colour of polen

We always look to see if there are open or closed queen cells.  The colony sometimes decide to make a new queen, if they sense that the old queen is not up to the mark.  Other times a strong colony makes a queen cell to create a new queen just before the old queen with nearly half the colony swarms.  The queen cells are much longer than brood cells for worker bees.

opened queen cell

Our friend Michel the beekeeper had a few days ago mentioned that he had apparently lost the queen in one of his hives.  That can happen as result of an accident whilst inspecting a hive or for a variety of other reasons.

A few days ago we helped another beekeeper friend divide a very busy hive that he keeps near our house.  The colony had up to fifteen queen cells all closed.  They made two divisions from that hive, but I asked to separate two or three closed queen cells so that we might be able to save Michel’s colony by transferring one queen cell.  The queen cells with a small amount of joining wax was cut out by a knife and placed a plastic container and brought to our house.   As it so happens, in the short distance of some 100 metres to our house, one of the queens was born.

One often as beekeeper hears about the piping of a queen, but even for an experienced beekeeper it is rare to actually hear a queen piping (Le chant de la reine).  You can see the peanut shell shapes of the queen cells and the queen in the plastic box.  She actually had two different songs (!) but I was lucky to be able to record her at least piping.  You can listen as it takes only a few seconds.

Michel came over and collected the queen and later placed her in a little “cage” closed with candy at one end, and introduced her between two frames in his hives.  After getting used to the new queen the bees chew the candy and the queen enters the hive.

Kourosh

 

30 thoughts on “A queen is born

  1. Typo in the last line ‘few Queen’ instead of new Dx

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  2. Thanks. Glad you liked it. – Kourosh

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  3. Thanks Khourosh, an amazing recording, well done.
    Best wishes
    Julian

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What an extraordinary eerie noise! Thank you for allowing us to hear such a rare thing!

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  5. That is very special to hear a Queen bee piping, was it really that loud?

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  6. Are you kidding me? A Queen Bee made that sound? What an amazing video. What an amazing experience saving that queen and her new hive. Very cool!!!!

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    • Laura, it is so nice to hear from you after so long.
      As for the queen bee piping, I missed telling you the best part of my story. I carried the little plastic box between my knees whilst driving to Michel, my beekeeper friend, I suddenly heard that noise and I thought that there was a police car (les gendarmes!) behind me. It did make me jump! The queen actually made two different sound, but I failed to record the second. It was amazing and very loud noise, too.
      So, do drop me a line and tell me how is life with you and family. Have you written any new books. I hope so, because I am one of your fans and want to read more.
      Best wishes
      Kourosh

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  7. That is one of the most fascinating posts I have read recently, Kourosh.
    The song of the queen is eerie…. one of our cats was looking out of the window and nearly span its head off it whipped round so fast!!
    As Brian Skeys asks above…. was it really that loud??

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    • It certainly was that loud, Your cat story is great! As I commented to Laura, above, it made me also jump when I first heard her.
      I am glad you liked hearing her.
      Kourosh

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  8. How interesting! I had no idea about le chant de la reine/queen bee piping.

    I’m glad your neighbour’s colony survived.

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    • Thank you, Helen. As I said, even beekeepers seldom get the chance of hearing a queen. It is a wonderful experience that I felt I needed sharing.
      All seems well with the queen in her new hive. In fact as you might have noticed, we separated three queen cells and the next one came out within an hour and she was also housed in another colony.
      A good ending, I hope for all.
      All the best and happy Easter,
      Kourosh

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  9. How wonderful, that queen piped as loudly as a bird. A really special recording.

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  10. How very cool. Many beekeepers never get to hear the queen piping. Thank you for sharing that bee moment.

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  11. Great story. Delightful details. It’s a real education in day-to-day hive management. The range of pollen colours is beautiful. Also amazed by the queen’s call – thanks for that. It interested me when you said the workers can sense when a queen is ‘not up to the mark’. I wonder how they sense this?

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    • Greetings Malcolm.
      We talk of that special bee as the queen, since among all the females in the colony she is the only one to lay eggs. She does not command, but her pheromone, and her sound keeps the colony in a kind of harmony. If the queen is injured in any way or if for some reason she does not lay enough eggs to replace the normal losses, then the colony senses that they need to replace her. a bit of a coup d’État you might say. That is different from the normal swarming when the queen with nearly half the colony leaves.
      Regards
      Kourosh

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  12. Absolutely amazing! I had no idea one little bee could make such an astonsihing sound. Thanks for posting this.

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  13. How amazing, nothing I can say can do justice to the call of the queen bee!

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  14. Thanks again, Kourosh, for continuing my bee-education. As always, so informative and interesting. The recording is a once in a lifetime for me.

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    • John
      Thanks for the comment. The queen singing is once in a lifetime for most beekeepers too.
      To be honest when I was writing this blog for Amelia, I was thinking of you and was hoping to share the experience specially with you.
      All the best
      Kourosh

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