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Dethroning her Royal Highness

Author - Laura Urban, Urban Honey Bee

It is certain that if you are in beekeeping long enough, one day you’ll go out to your bee yard and encounter the she devil hive. This is the hive that will sting you multiple times just for giving it a stink eye. This is the hive you bundle up into multiple layers of clothing and inspect last because you know it will ruin your day. This is the hive you dread to inspect.

Last fall I realized I had such a hive when I went to change it’s then dilapidated bottom board into something that was in better shape. After multiple stings and bees chasing me around the yard, I convinced myself that perhaps it was the time of day or even time of year that made them so angry.

I mean I love my bees so much, why did they not return the sentiment?

Then spring arrives. This hive made it through winter beautifully with a queen that was on fire laying eggs and her many minions raising brood. We had a love hate relationship but I decided her royal highness had to go. She would be replaced with gentler stock. I was tired of getting stung.

Week after week I would open the hive trying to get a glance at her and even though she was marked I had difficulty locating her. I mean I spot queens all the time…little tiny virgin queens, but it was almost as if she could sense my intent was to behead her!

Recently I gave it one final try. I approached the hive with my smoker and arsenal of clothing. I cracked open the outer cover and immediately feel a sting on my rear end. Really? This is how we’re going to start this?! After inventing a few more obscenities I take super after super off until I get to the bottom box. I endured a few more stings on the hands in the process and bee after bee charging my veil.

There she was! The yellow dot from last year gave her away. “Now’s the time” I thought, “I’m going to squish her dead”! However I couldn’t do it. Even though I felt like I had just wrestled a lion and won I couldn’t kill her yet. She’s a great queen even if she is a little angry. Ok, evil might be a better word for it, but she looked so harmless and she has been through a lot. She was the heartbeat of a colony the last part of the summer and survived the entire winter. She survived extreme cold, varroa mites, chemicals and heaven knows what else. I wouldn’t dare create additional queens from her, but perhaps in the meantime she could serve a purpose.

I remembered a nuc that had gone queenless after a failed mating attempt. Almost all the brood had emerged and I was worried it would soon become a laying worker colony. Instead of beheading her I placed her in a queen cage, her plastic jail. Her demise is inevitable until she can be replaced, but for now I consider her on death row.

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