Queen update: We had a look in the hive Saturday. I fully expected to find the corpse of our new queen. The Engineer was more optimistic, pointing out our bees have always been fairly mellow, that maybe she’d been accepted.
We were both wrong. She and her attendants were still in the cage. Directly above them was this puff of new comb. They were so light and airy I wasn’t completely sure the cells weren’t paper until I put a match to them.
It’s burr comb. I should have known. A more experienced beekeeper could possibly explain why the bees suddenly decided there was too much space beneath their inner cover, but I can’t.
Thats how burr comb is used – to fill in open space in the hive. This has to do with “bee space,” a concept discovered by Lorenzo Langstroth, who noticed bees fill in spaces less than 1/4″ with propolis and space over 3/8″ with burr comb. He designed hives to accommodate this, and it’s Langstroth hives that are most commonly used in the US.
But back to our queen quandary.
The the situation in the hive hadn’t changed so we had no reason to feel any more optimistic about her future welfare.
On the other hand, the workers didn’t seem particularly hostile to their would-be monarch. Most didn’t even seem interested.
We debated a few minutes.
The Engineer: “I think we should release her.”
Me: “They’ll kill her.”
The Engineer: “They’ve fed her for ten days. Look at them. They’re not biting the cage or trying to sting her.”
Me: “Well, it’s not like it will make a difference. They’ll probably kill her whatever we do.”
In the end – partly to just get it over – we opened the cage and watched her scurry into the hive.
I fully expect we’ll soon be looking for a nuc in the near future.