We know our kids have to learn the realities of life. Sometimes the family fish dies, before we can make it to the pet shop to get an identical one to slip in the bowl. (Hang in there Norbert, awesome beta fish of ours, we really like you!) The seeds they carefully plant and tend never come up, and we secretly plant new ones. It is heartbreaking to see them feel sad, and as parents we often try to fix it. We had almost reached that point this week…
Our littlest beekeepers wanted their own hives, so my husband pulled splits from our hives to start a nucleus (nuc) colony for our 7 and 11 year olds. A nuc has several frames of brood, eggs, and larvae, stolen from a larger, stronger hive and placed in a small hive. The nurse bees on the frames can use the fresh eggs/larvae to raise a new queen.
Pretty cool huh?
The girls raise the queen by building a special queen cell around the chosen egg and then feeding the larva extra portions of royal jelly. Royal jelly is milky white, protein rich food for baby bees. Worker bees are fed royal jelly for only three days, but the queen gets it throughout her development. (Thank goodness I’m not a baby bee, because I sampled some and it tastes terrible! Very acidic. Nothing like yummy honey!) The extra royal jelly makes the larva develop into a queen, with ovaries, rather than a typical worker bee. A pretty neat (and useful) trick, isn’t it?
The photo below shows a queen cell built out from the existing cells on the frame. If you look inside the opening on the cell, you can see the developing queen larva inside. The nurse bees feed her for 8 days until it is time to cap the cell with wax and allow her to develop. They may build several queen cells in hopes of getting a healthy one to emerge and mate successfully.
For whatever reason, big sissy’s hive took off like a rocket. Her queen emerged, flew out to mate, and returned to lay eggs like crazy. Little brother’s queen, on the other hand, never appeared. For weeks, he’s been checking his hive for signs of a queen. Each time we’ve added fresh eggs for them to try again, but still no queen to be found. We hypothesize that his queen flew out to mate, and met with some untimely demise on her mating flight, but we can only guess.
We had almost given up hope. A plan was in place to stealthily sneak out and combine his hive with another nuc with a healthy queen. With fingers crossed, last night we peeked in one last time to check how things were going, and lo and behold, there she was. I only got a quick shot of her because the girls were a little annoyed with the red cover on my cell phone. Thank goodness the little guy’s hive has a queen, and we didn’t have to bee sneaky! The right girl is always worth waiting for, and this one is a beauty.
Y’all bee sweet, cause the royal jelly is not!