Sticky Acres

Add This To The List Of Things That Suck: Regicide

Filed under Bees, Sticky Acres

I’d been planning the assassination for three weeks.

I didn’t really want her dead, but someone had to kill her. Even though my boyfriend claims that he’ll do anything for me, “anything” doesn’t include getting blood on his hands. So the snuff work fell to me.

My boyfriend, that softie, had already talked me out of killing her once. Which was a mistake, because once I met her, she became that much harder to think of just as a target and not as an individual.

On February 28th, after six months of searching for her kind, we’d finally caught a glimpse of her. We were both shocked by her glamour when we first saw her. She actually moved with regal grace. Copper colored and evenly striped, she was much more beautiful than we had ever anticipated.

After months of hive inspections, we’d finally spotted one of our queen bees.

Unfortunately, it was also during this inspection that we discovered that most of the brood cells in the Speaker Bee hive were stuffed with chubby, bullet shaped, drone larvae. There were almost no cells containing future worker bees.

Which meant that the Speaker Bee queen was infertile and shooting blanks.

Although this seems counter-intuitive to humans, the queen needs sperm to generate female worker bees, but not the male drones.

In a beehive, it’s the females that do all of the work. The drones exist only as a male harem to the queen. The drones don’t feed themselves, clean up after themselves or do any other work in the hive.

No sperm = drones

No worker bees = slow death by starvation and exposure for the entire hive.

Sometimes the mathematics of beekeeping are just cruel.

In the drone-laying queen scenario, there is only one solution: assassination. When a queen bee is killed, the surviving worker bees will groom a freshly hatched worker larva to replace her as the reigning, egg-laying monarch. That is, if there’s a female larva among all the drones to be groomed. Alternately, we could order a (hopefully fertile) queen bee from a bee breeder to replace our queen.

Either way, the Speaker Bee queen must die.

This morning, I drank too much coffee and pulled together the last minute, horrible details of the job. Many beekeepers “pinch” the queen to death by mashing her between their fingers. But this type of public assassination, with its thousands of potential witnesses can get ugly fast. I would be easily identified as the killer by hundreds of bees who could all decide they needed to avenge the death of their queen. Kirk advised me hide the killing from the rest of the hive by first removing the queen from the hive by stabbing her with a plastic take-out fork. With or without witnesses, I didn’t relish hearing or feeling the queen’s exoskeleton pop between my fingertips. Instead, I put our bamboo toast tongs into the pocket of my inspector jacket along with a spice jar half-filled with rubbing alcohol. Instead of pinching the queen, I would abduct her from the hive with the toast tongs, take a few big steps away from her panic-stricken subjects, and then euthanize her, off-site, in my tiny killing jar.

I thought the wee killing jar was a genius move on my part. In addition to killing her instantly, I wouldn’t be covered with bee gore and therefore wouldn’t be the target of a hive full of vengeful bees because they would have a hard time smelling her body inside a closed jar, suspended in rubbing alcohol. Also, as a side benefit, I would be able to recycle the mixture of dead queen and alcohol as swarm lure at a later date by smearing bait hives with a few drops of my homemade eau d’apis.

It was so close to a perfect crime.

Armed and dangerous I opened up the Speaker Bee hive and started a systematic hunt for the queen bee frame by frame.

I couldn’t find her anywhere.

Which was kind of a relief.

Anyway, my failed assassination plot has a happy ending. Because even though I didn’t find the queen and there were tons of drones loafing around the hive, there was also at least a frame of capped worker brood in the bottom super! Either the beautiful, copper-colored queen was what is called, in beekeeping parlance, an “old virgin” (I prefer the terms “late-bloomer” or “picky”) who had finally mated, or the bees had already replaced her with a new, sperm-filled, fertile queen. Regardless, of what had happened with the sovereign in the last twenty days, the Speaker Bees were now queen right, and I was off the hook for regicide at least for the near future.

On an end note, I feel like such an asshole. No, really. Can I just say that as a lifelong feminist, it just galls me that I was going to have to kill another female creature just because she was not giving birth the the “right” gender of offspring? The local chapter of NOW can just cut up my Lady Card because being this type of exterminator (Terminator? Sperminator)? has to come with some seriously bad girlie karma.

So, when one of the Speaker Bees crawled up the inside of my pant leg and stung me on the back of my knee, I felt it was just desserts for my treachery.

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