I was in the process of inspecting my hives, making sure that my bees were prepared for winter. It is an inspection that I take very seriously this time of year. I especially wanted to inspect a hive that had a Queen that was 3 years old. Now days honey bee have so many troubles, most Honey Bee Queens to not last 3 years.
That day in that hive I was truly AMAZED at what I witnessed!!!
The natural process of a hive is for the Queen to live years longer than a worker bee. Once the queen is mated, she never leaves the hive again. She continues to lay eggs day after day after day. A productive queen can lay as many as 1,500 eggs in one day. This is due to the fact that when she mates, she mates with 15 – 18 drones, giving her great diversity in the eggs that she lays. This diversity in the hive keeps the bees healthy and more prepared to fight disease.
During the inspection of my hives, my goal was to determine if the hive needs more food, to find the queen and inspect her. This queen was marked with a green florescent dot from the spring of 2014. Many beekeepers mark their queens so that they can remember how old they are. The color dot correlates to the year she was put into the hive.
This Queen was going into her 3rd winter in that hive. I had seen some signs that this queen was not laying as productively in my previous inspections. My thoughts were to get her through the winter and replace her in the spring. It was October, after all, and there was no finding a new queen this time of year.
Top brood box, approximately the 6th frame in, I found a Queen…. with no markings. My first thought was, the hive had instinctively known that the old queen was weak, would probably not make it through another winter and had replaced her. Then, my helper, a high school student that was helping and learning about bees, spotted a queen with a florescent green dot. Both queens were in the hive!! They were standing practically side by side.
The unmarked queen hurriedly scampered to the other side of the frame. I took time to inspected the old queen. She looked much smaller than when she was in her prime and looked worse than previously in the spring. She had served her purposed and had been a great layer. I thanked her for her service to this hive.
Then we both witnessed something that I will probably never see again in this lifetime. The new queen approached the old queen, mounted her from the back and proceeded to sting her to death. My helper continued to take pictures of the event.
What an Honor to Have Witnessed this....
I again thanked the old queen for her service and felt so grateful that I was witnessing this event. It’s like they waited until I inspecting the hive to perform this ritual. I felt honored !!
It is events such as this that convinces me to continue to keep honey bees. It is not an easy job. It is harder to keep honey bees alive than any other time on earth.
Times like these, I understand more deeply what a wonderful magnificent creature
the honey bee is and I am grateful for the work that they do!