A brilliant afternoon. Green grass. Blue sky. Flags fluttering with the wind and the leaves of the trees around us bending in response. We advanced from the west approaching the stronghold, armoured and ready to split the ranks of the black queen into two. Her guards buzzed at us angrily, pinging off our suits. How many times had we been stung by her scouts and foragers? How many times had their stingers pierced through two layers of fabric or the rubber of our gauntleted gloves? The cunning guards had found their way under cuffs and into sleeves, through the folds of gloves and onto bare skin. Their welts a testament to the lives they gave up to protect their queen. This is the hive that flew in the rain, worked until dusk, produced full frames of honey when others appeared to suffer in dearth and always exacted its pound of flesh in payment when giving up its riches.
The roof removed, and the inner frames exposed, we released our smoke, pushing the thousands of inhabitants down into the dark. We had come for brood and food; enough to take away and create a new colony. There were plenty of drones, a new egg could be fed the royal jelly and a new queen raised to grow a second hive. Three boxes of brood cells created many places to hide and no expectation of actually finding the queen this day. The smoke created just enough confusion and then in a gap, the queen appeared alone. Skittling across the comb, her long sleek body moving away from the light as we followed in visual pursuit. The decision was quick. The knife was swift and then she was dead. Long live the Queen. A new dynasty will begin, if not as productive and certainly not as aggressive. We closed the hive and pulled off our hoods well away from the masses now congregated on the outside of their home. It was not what we had set out to do but, after two seasons and now into a third, it was the right time and the right act. Long live the queen.
With good weather and forage to be found, hives are taking off at record speed; and of course, swarming has happened even more quickly. Whether you split hives of your own accord or retrieve the swarms to establish new hives, these weeks are busy with decisions and building to take advantage of the rapid growth.
While the weather has delayed the beekeeping season it has not slowed us as a club. Last month it was the launch of our new website and this month we are taking steps to establish a club hives at a site in Central Saanich. Bob Wadsworth will be able to tell us more at our meeting on June 8th.
We have contributed to our views to the Pollinator Round Table, a sub-group of the Capital Region Food and Agriculture Initiatives Roundtable and Catherine Culley will be able to provide an update on that.
Barry Denluck and Jody Aylard have been quietly plotting our plan for the 2018 annual general meeting of the BCHPA, to be held here in Victoria and, while 16 months seems so far away, much has to be done now to confirm space and speakers and sponsors to make it successful.
Our agenda this month will introduce you to the wonderful world of top bar hives and to the not-so-wonderful world of Nosema. You’ll laugh; you’ll cry. Who knows? It may change your life!
For those who ask, Roger the springer spaniel is now 5 months, 35 lbs and joyfully bounding about – though he has learned not to bound near the bees.
It’s time to gird my loins; don my armour and see if I have the makings of a queen in my hive. See you on June 8th.