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.
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
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.
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.
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.