bees, honey and other sticky subjects

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The Queen and her retinue

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I clip my queen's wings so that they don't get far if/when they swarm. Swarms in chimneys and elsewhere can be quite anti-social, so I try to make sure that my swarms don't upset the neighbours. Some people object to clipping -- but I see it as the lesser of two evils.

Obviously the clipping cannot do the Queens much harm -- if done delicately. This happens to be the only Queen that has stayed with me over two winters. On all other occasions, my Queens have left me withing one year. Older beekeepers talk about three, four and five year old queens, but they seem to be becoming more short-lived. Some suspect that, for whatever reason, mating is not what it used to be! Some think that drones are either fewer or less fertile.

The constantly changing workers around the Queen are sensing her Queen pheromone with their antennae and spreading it around the colony so that everyone knows that mummy is at home and keeping well. It's thought that if her pheromnones fail, or if the colony is too congested, her scent does not impregnate the colony and the workers then start making a new queen.

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