Overthrowing the Italian Queen

the queen must die

After checking the hives on June 6, 2010, it was determined, with much regret, that the Minnesota Hygienic Italian queen…must die. The warrant was signed when I located a supplier of new MHI queens, placed my order, and 5 days later, a small, buzzing package was in the mailbox. The queen arrived last Thursday, and we got home from St. Paul far too late (bad weather postponed our departure from 5:00 PM until 9:00 PM) for me to depose the monarch; it would wait until the next day.

I had worked out the plan in my head; running through each step over and over. Locate the queen; searching frame by frame. Kill the queen. Take the new queen from pocket. Remove cork from candy-side of cage (I will explain what that means) . Pinch cage between two frames in the middle of the hive. Refill feed pail. Close up the hive. Done.

Friday came, and after work, Sam Bradley stopped over to catch the coup in action. With the video camera in place, I set to work on the business at hand; Sam took still photos. The results of the videoing can be found at the end of this post.

all hail the new queen

The new queen arrived in a green, olefin fiber envelope with large, bold letters – URGENT: LIVE BEES. I felt like Darren McGavin’s character in a Christmas Story; it was like a major award, and I had just won it. I am not sure why I was so excited to have an envelope containing live bees; maybe I was just thrilled at the attempt to restart the one hive.

The box in which the queen arrived, seen to the left, consisted of a screen covering a hollowed out middle, two corks, and a piece of candy. The cork at the near-end (in the photo) is where the queen was put into the box; the white substance is the candy, and on far end, the other cork.

When putting the new queen into the hive, you do not want to just open the box and let her rip; she will get killed by guard bees almost instantly. If not killed by the guards, the existing queen will give killing the new queen a stab. Instead, after you have offed the current queen, you uncork the candy end of the box, with the idea that while the few worker bees that came with the queen eat away at the candy, a horde of workers from the whole hive eat away from the other side. The whole process takes roughly 3 days. During this time the new queen gets the smells of the hive, and hopefully when both sides meet, there is not a melee.

Upon opening the hive, we looked on frame after frame of poorly drawn out comb; no queen to be found. We noticed more drones than I had seen before, too. We looked through the frames, yet again. No queen. I decided to take a gamble: the original queen had already perished. The cork on the candy-end was removed, and the queen-box was pinched between the two middle frames. Hive back together, a refilled feed pail atop; done.

After posting a link to the video, Eric Rochow of Gardenfork.tv contacted me. Eric is a painter and contractor in the Connecticut, Manhattan & Brooklyn areas; he is also an experienced beekeeper, among other things. We emailed back and forth and after a few questions, I realized we probably had an egg laying worker because of the presence of more than a normal number of drones. This means that the queen we are attempting to introduce may simply be killed by the workers or the impostor-non-queen. It sounds like a study in socialism to me. Let us all hope that the new queen makes it. Dosvidanya, comrades.