The Bee or Not the Bee… That is the Question


I got up yesterday thinking the day was going to be a waste due to the weather, even though I had sooo much I needed to do… cut the grass, move the false back, check the girls. It was cloudy, and although not hot, was not cool or cold. I feared it would rain and ruin everything.

At about 9am, I decided I needed to do it now or perhaps lose the opportunity for the day. I donned the space suit and took to the woods.

First I check their comb through the window…. looking good !!

Off comes the top and then the inner cover. So far so good. I had originally planned on moving the false back to the end of the hive, in accordance with the hive instructions. But the “not hot” weather had me concerned that the space might be too big for the girls to keep warm. I decided to only move the false back by four top bars, including the spacers.

I chose to do this without gloves and everything went off without a hitch. No problems. In looking through the window I can see how beautiful their comb is coming along. There is a little bit that they have actually attached to the window. I think they must be 5 or 6 bars back now.

I stop to consider what I should do. I decide I should take a quick look at some of the bars, just to see if Queen Victoria is laying yet. I look at one bar, which is mainly just bees hanging in their comb building chain formation. I move a few bars closer. Looks beautiful, but sill nothing notable to report.

I decide to take a look at the second top bar. I loosen the bar and pull it straight up. There are a lot of bees, and the hum of the hive turns noticeably louder and more unfriendly. Odd I think to myself. The comb is aging nicely and starting to turn yellow. I check the side facing me and I can see they are setting some good pollen. I turn the comb around and that’s when I saw it.

“Am I seeing things?” I think to myself. “Did I really just see that?” It was like a lighthouse on a dark and stormy night beckoning out. “But this doesn’t make sense” I continue my internal discussion.

What I saw was a bright tiny little fluorescent orange dot.

When I had asked my bee dealer (does that make me a bee junkie?) about marked queens, they told me it was an extra five dollars and the bees may look at it as a genetic defect and not accept her. Since I had already paid for my bees, I told them, “OK, thanks, I’ll just take an unmarked queen.”

When I took Queen Victoria out of the main box, I don’t recall seeing any markings. But I suppose I might not have seen it; although, I looked pretty closely. I additionally, don’t remember seeing any markings when I had released her last Saturday.

But sure enough, there was a marked queen. In actuality it might be a good thing, because I quickly saw the bright spot and I’m not sure I would have been able to find her without it. Actually it probably would have been impossible. I thought to myself, I should take a picture… but I had put my gloves on prior to starting with the bars and I knew full well that I can’t work an iPhone with gloved fingers!

I don’t see any evidence of brood yet. Maybe it’s still early. I started to lower the bar back into the hive when bees start flooding off of the comb. I start to panic now! I don’t want Queen Victoria to come off the comb, so how am I going to get the bar back in? I quickly realize that I was not manipulating the bars correctly. I needed to take out one bar and then use the extra space to work forward.

So now I standing there holding the comb with Queen Victoria. I have to use one hand to hold that bar and comb steady while I remove one of the top bars near the back without any comb so I can slowly move all of the other bars back a bit so I can get Queen Vicky back into the castle. I work slowly, sweat beading down my forehead. “Where is all this sweat coming from?? It’s freakin’ cloudy and mild out !!!” I say to myself.

I manage to get Queen Vicky back into the hive and now begin the process of closing everything back up. As soon as her top bar was back into the hive, the attitude of the hive immediately calmed down. Amazing. I slowly move bars back up toward the front of the hive, moving slowly and with a wave like motion to entice the girls back down into the hive and avoiding crushing any of them.

I get all the bars back in place, replace the cover and replace the roof. Then I take a look at the front of the hive. There are a few girl fanning. Good sign.

There are also girls bringing more pollen in. Another good sign. I note that I am mainly seeing some very bright orange pollen. I wonder where that might be coming from. There aren’t many flowers that look like that color, except for some day lilies; however, I haven’t seen any bees on them. I did note one single honey bee on the Gatinger’s Prairie Clover, but have no idea if it was one of my girls on one of the Ferals. However, there were TONS of Bumbles on it, with comparable colored pollen.


So here is my deduction… My Dear Watson…. either the dealer marks all of their queens and only charges the $5 when someone asks for a marked queen (meaning everyone gets ones) or somehow, there was a marked queen in with the package, which wasn’t the one in the cage. I’ve tried calling my bee dealer, but have not yet been able to get in contact with them. I’ll try again tomorrow.

The marking definitely looked bright orange, and in looking and the “professional” marking colors, is not one that is used. Unless this is supposed to be “red”. It’s all a mystery.

I continue to give the girls 1:1 syrup in an open feeder a good ways from the hive. I’ll decide whether I should check for brood next weekend later in the week. Or maybe as long as I am seeing pollen I should give it a few weeks. This is all sooo fascinating!


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