6.17.2007

A Drone (And Mystery) is Born

Today we inspected Hive Orange from top to bottom, since I'd noticed some oddly shaped cells through the observation window and was concerned that we might be heading for a swarm. It was our first time using the new top bar holder I'd assembled in the tradition of Dada on Friday. This contraption is super-handy and made today's inspection (and photo shoot) very easy.


Our visit to the hive brought a few interesting surprises. We saw several drones entering the world by chewing their way out of their capped cells. We saw a bees carry a dead bee out of the hive (just picked her up and flew off with her—an image evocative of the flying monkey whisking Toto away.) And we saw the bees attack a hapless fly that wandered into the hive.

We also found seven of these unusually shaped cells, a possible sign that the colony intends to swarm.
Swarming is a natural thing for the bees—that's how they divide their colonies and reproduce in the wild. It's also how they cope when the population outgrows the space inside the hive. Basically, they raise several new queens in these special cells. Whichever queen emerges first goes around and kills off the other queens while they're still in their cells. Meanwhile, once the new queen emerges, the old queen takes off with a portion of the colony to find a new home, leaving the new queen with the remainder of the colony.

I don't mind in the least if our bees swarm once the colony is strong and established (i.e., next spring). But I'm a little concerned that since this colony was hived 8 weeks ago and is just getting underway, having half the population jump ship might leave the rest under-staffed in terms of gathering enough food and building to appropriate population size going into winter.

We found a total of seven of these cells. The thing is, they may be swarm cells...or something called "queen cups," which apparently don't present any risk of swarming at all.

To my untrained eyes, the difference is unclear. Therefore, the implications of all this excitement are as yet unknown. I've posted a query to my Top Bar Hive discussion group and am hoping they can solve the mystery. Stay tuned....

2 comments:

Eva Yaa Asantewaa said...

New rock band name: DadaBees!

Karen Cook said...

okay, the suspense is killing me! don't let the screen fade to black!