Poor GeeBees! They are certainly off to a rough start.
When we inserted the queen cage, we noticed she seemed smaller than others we’ve had. In fact, the only way we could differentiate between her and her attendant bees was by her thorax, which isn’t furry on a queen. Normally, you can also tell by the size and shape of her body, but she was only slightly more tapered than the worker bees (see circled below in The Engineer’s photo).
Even allowing for the different scale of the photos, she was much smaller than OH, Girls’ queen (below).
When it comes to queens, bigger is generally better because it means she’s full of sperm and will be a good egg layer.
Also, the workers didn’t seem much interested in looking after her, at least not in comparison to the queen on the package our friend picked up.
Well, after today, we don’t have to worry about her size because when we opened the hive to check if she’d been released, we discovered she’s dead.
Definitely not* the way we’d prefer to start a new hive.
What to do, what to do … what could we do but close up the hive and make plans to buy another queen or try to get one from the man who sold us the package? (In the end, we did let him know what happened, and he said he should have queens in a few weeks, so that is now our backup plan, I suppose.)
On a much brighter note, OH, Girls are doing great, with lots of brood and larvae in a nice solid laying pattern. And we saw Her Royal Blueness skittering around, laying eggs as fast as she could move.
When we found a frame chock full of eggs, I suddenly had the idea to swap it for one of GeeBees’ frames in the hope they’d make a queen.
You see, queen and worker bees are almost identical genetically. It’s what she’s fed that makes her a queen. Contrary to what you might have heard, all larvae are fed royal jelly, but worker bees and drones only receive it for three days. A would-be queen is given enough royal jelly to sustain her throughout her growth cycle, and the difference in diet causes the changes in development that makes a queen.
I’ll spare you the lecture on queen development and simply share a few additional facts. First, you should know worker bees generally build queen cells when they are ready to make a new queen, either to supercede the old or to replace the old queen when the hive swarms. And, second, sometimes, when a queen dies unexpectedly, the workers need to make an “emergency queen” by building a queen cell around existing eggs and feeding those eggs more royal jelly as they develop into larvae and then bees. Here is an article with pictures of the different types of queen cells.
Some say emergency queens are generally smaller than those who developed in a queen cell built intentionally to develop a queen. Others disagree.
If GeeBees do what bees are supposed to do and develop a queen for us, I guess we’ll be able to form our own opinion on the matter. Queens take about three weeks to develop, so don’t think we’ll be finding out anytime soon. When bees are in the process of making or accepting a new queen, it’s generally best to leave them to it, so we won’t be peeking for a while.
And then, she would have to successfully survive her mating flights — yet another hurdle.
At the very least, the hive will have some brood to raise while they wait.
Speaking of brood, I thought you’d like to see some photos of a baby bee emerging from her cell (and she’s definitely a she because she’s coming out of a worker cell).
Once again, we are left crossing our fingers about one of our hives. I’m starting to think we should just keep them permanently crossed. 🙂
*Unrelated side note: For months, WordPress hasn’t let me italicize words, and now I can do it again. This makes no sense whatsoever.