Off With Her Head, Well Actually, Her Butt

Merging the two queen hive into one.  An ode to the Swarm Queen.

The Swarm Queen is on the left, toward the top. Can you spot her?

The fall is fast approaching and it has come time to prepare the bees for winter and disassemble my two queen hive. It is necessary to restore the bees back to the normal two deep configuration for the winter because neither hive alone has enough bees to survive the long cold months.  Sadly, this means one of my queens has to go.  I know which one that is but the irony of the situation is not lost on me.

The queen in the bottom hive is strong.  She is the one the bees left behind when they swarmed.  She is a prolific egg layer.  She is laying eggs in every open cell and the bees cannot keep up with her.  Hard to find at times, she is a huge beautiful queen.

The queen on the top is small.  I watched her from the moment she hatched from her queen cell.  She never ran away and was always easy to spot.  She didn’t want to leave the hive, but after 3 attempts the bees finally made her swarm. When she left with them, she landed on a tree 80 feet high in the air, about 20 yards from the hive.  She stayed there during a rainstorm, and through trial and error and a lot of tenacity, my husband and I were able to get her back andrehive her. I watched her grow from a small little virgin queen, into a bigger egg laying beauty. She turned out to be a good queen, even laying eggs in cells not completely built, but she did not have enough bees or enough time.  She did not motivate her children to draw wax they way her sister did.  I moved brood frames with bees from the bottom hive to give her a helping hand, but it was still not enough.  She could not compete with her sister and so sadly her days were numbered.

My bee mentor Stan, bee buddy Debbie and her son Andrew, came over for the big event.  It was time to turn my two queen hive into a one queen hive for the winter.  Despite having two sets of egg layers, my bees barely had 18 frames drawn out between both hives.  They need 20 for the winter for just one hive, so we needed to combine the hives into one to get them ready to start storing food.

We took apart the hive, removed the empty honey super, and Stan inspected and rearranged the best frames for me.  He said both queens were good but the bottom was better (which I already knew).  Then he wanted to know if I wanted the honors of beheading her, but I declined. I couldn’t, not after everything we had been through. Scenes of her life flashed before my eyes. Poor little Queenie. I watched as Stan tried to squish her several times before it worked, then put her back in the hive struggling for life, squished butt and all, so the bees could take care of her.  It had to be done, but still I was sad about it.

It’s good to be a queen as long as you’re a good queen.  Here she is, in all her beauty.  The queen that swarmed, the queen that was caught, the queen that grew from a small virgin to a big, heavy egg layer, and the queen that is no more.  Sadly, I do miss her.  The first swarm means the most I guess.

Goodbye, Swarm Queen!

Other Posts You May Enjoy:

  1. A Hive With Two Queens
  2. First Inspection Of The Two Queen Hive System
  3. Inspecting The Two Queen Hive System
  4. Duct Tape, A Rock And A String Saved My Swarm – Part 2 of 3
  5. In Case You’re Wondering Bees Can Chew Through Garden Row Cover – Part 3 of 3

Author: Anita Deeley

Anita Deeley is a biologist and former state bee inspector who maintains 100 honey bee hives. She is the beekeeper, writer, owner and creator of BeverlyBees.com. When she is not spending time with her girls (the bees), she enjoys being a wife to her beekeeping cohort, Brian and mother to 3 little boys (the beekeepers in training). Read more about Anita here >> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Connect with Anita on Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ or Facebook here.

2 Comments

  1. This is so sad. I wish there were a way to just let them go free and start their own colony. 🙁