Playing hide and seek with a queen . . . or two
If you recall, I split my top-bar hive on Friday by shaking the frames over an empty box. Once done, I was clueless about where the queen had ended up. I looked through the frames of shook bees but found no sign of her.
Within a few hours I noticed the top-bar hive was calm and the shook swarm was loud, agitated, and aggressive. All this made me think the shook swarm was the queenless colony.
Since I had provided the swarm with drawn comb, I decided to check for eggs in about 24 hours. I found none on Saturday and none on Sunday–further evidence of queenlessness.
By this time I was impatient because my schedule wouldn’t allow for much beekeeping in the days to come, so instead of verifying further, I decided to go ahead and give the shook swarm the last queen I had in reserve. (Note: As a beekeeper, one should never be impatient.)
I put the queen in a cage and placed it the hive. Something was odd, though. Instead of fanning the new queen like crazy—a message that says, “Here’s our new queen and this is what she smells like”—the workers just stood on the cage and looked at her. I could hear them saying, “Who the heck are you?”
I decided to close up the hive anyway, but as I did so, I just knew it wasn’t right. So I tore off the cover and went queen hunting again. On the third frame, there she was–the original top-bar queen.
I did a fast backtrack and removed the new queen and cage. She wasn’t injured. I think the workers still hasn’t decided what to do with her or when. Maybe they were waiting for a court order.
In any case, no damage was done. But it reminded me that bees know what they are doing. Humans just think they know what bees are doing. So when in doubt, wait it out.