CHAPTER XII. [273]
LOSS OF THE QUEEN BEE.

That the queen of a hive is often lost, and that the ruin of the whole colony soon follows, unless such a loss is seasonably remedied, are facts which ought to be well known to every observing bee-keeper.

The queen bee can die of old age or disease or accident at any time. Often this is at a time when there are no worker-eggs, or larvŠ of a suitable age, to enable the bees to survive their loss. Remember, however, that it is not likely to be a large proportion of the queens which do die, that they are lost under such circumstances.

In most cases of apiculture, either the bees are aware in advance of the approaching end of their aged mother, and take necessary precautions to prepare a successor; or else she dies very suddenly, but, leaving behind, a brood of suitable age. It is seldom that a queen in a strong, thriving, hive rich in members and stores, dies either at a period of the year when there is no brood from which another can be reared, or when there are no drones to impregnate the one reared in her place.

By the way, when speaking of the age of bees, it has already been mentioned elsewhere that queens commonly die in their fourth year, while none of the workers generally live to be a year old. Not only does this mean the queen is much longer lived than the other bees, but she seems to have a greater tenacity of life, so that when any disease does threaten the colony, she is usually among the last to perish. By a lucky turn of fate, the death of the queen bee ordinarily takes place under circumstances [274] which are most favorable to the hive. If it were otherwise, the number of colonies which would perish annually, would be very much greater than it actually is. Fortunate, for as a number of aged queen bees MUST die every year, many, or even most of them might die at a season when their loss would necessarily involve the ruin of the entire colony.

In non-swarming hives, cells have been found in which queen bees were reared, not intended to lead a new swarm, but to fill the place of the old one which had died in the hive. There have also been a few well authenticated instances, in which a young queen has been matured before the death of the old one, but after she had begun to become aged and infirm. Even so, there are will always be cases where old queens die, either so suddenly as to leave no young brood behind them, or at a time when there are no drones to impregnate the young queens.

It is also an issue for the apiculturist, professional, or amateur, that a queen bee might live to such an age as to become incapable of laying worker egg. This is a well established fact. The seminal reservoir sometimes becomes exhausted, before the queen dies of old age, and as it is never replenished, (see p. 44,) she can only lay unimpregnated eggs, or eggs which produce only drones instead of workers. This is an additional confirmation of the theory first propounded by Johann Dzierzon (1811 - 1906).

We can thank Samuel Wagner (1798-1872), for the following facts.

"In the Bienenzeitung (Bee News), for August, 1852, Count Stosch gives us the case of a colony examined by himself, with the aid of an experienced Apiarian, on the 14th of April, previous. The worker-brood was then found to be healthy. In May following, the bees worked industriously, and built new comb. Soon afterwards they ceased to build, and appeared dispirited; and when, in the beginning of June, he examined the colony again, he found plenty of drone brood in worker cells! The queen appeared weak [275] and languid. He confined her in a queen cage, and left her in the hive. The bees clustered around the cage; but next morning the queen was found to be dead. Here we seem to have the commencement, progress and termination of super-annuation, all in the space of five or six weeks."

In the Spring, as soon as the bees begin to fly, if their activities are carefully watched, the Apiarian/Apiculturist may... even in the common hives, generally be able to tell from their actions, whether the hive has a fertile queen or not. If they are seen to bring in bee-bread with great eagerness, it's fairly certain that they have a brood, and are anxious to provide fresh food for its nourishment. If any hive does not industriously gather pollen, or make use the rye flour upon which other bees are feasting, then there is an almost absolute certainty either that it does NOT have a queen, or she is not fertile, or that the hive is seriously infested with worms, or that it is on the edge of starvation and collapse.

An experienced beekeeper will often first detect the lack of a queen be within a hive, from the restless appearance of the bees.

When the bees first realize the extent of their loss, and before they have become either reconciled to it, or indifferent to their fate, they roam in an inquiring manner, in and out of the hive, and over its outside as well as inside. This is often the first sign that something calamitous has happened to the hive.

Often bees that do return from the fields, instead of entering the hive with the haste so characteristic of a bee returning well stored to a prosperous home, will, instead, linger about the entrance with an idle and very dissatisfied appearance. The colony will seem restless, long after the other stocks are quiet. Their home, like that one who is not in good domestic relations, is a melancholy place: and they only enter it with reluctant and slow steps! [276]

Said a man of large experience, "I scarcely know a woman who has an [277]

When the bees go to work in the Spring, they give, as I said, pretty reliable evidence either that all is well, or that ruin lurks within. In the common hives however, it is not always easy to decide upon their real condition. The condition of those hives without a queen bee is not, in all cases obvious: as with us humans, there is a vast amount of pretending even in the little world of the bee hive.

One great advantage in my mode of hive construction is that I am never have to leave anything to conjecture; but can, in a few moments, open it up, and know precisely what is the real condition of my bees.

Once I found that a colony which had been without a queen bee for a considerable time, utterly refused to raise [278] another, and ate all the eggs which were given to them for that purpose!

Later, an unimpregnated queen bee was introduced into this colony. The hive refused to accept of her, and attempted at once to smother her to death. I then gave them a fertile queen, but she met with the same fate.

Results of a similar sort have been noticed by other observers. It seems that bees may not only become reconciled, as it were, to living without a mother, but may pass into such an unnatural state as not only to decline to provide themselves with another, but even to refuse to accept of one which can rescue them from impending ruin!

Before we show too much surprise at such foolish conduct on the part of bees, let us seriously ask ourselves if it has not often an exact parallel in our obstinate rejection of, or avoidance of, things that are good for us, yet, new or different than what we are accustomed to.

If a colony which refuses to rear another queen, has a range of comb given to it containing maturing brood, these poor motherless innocents, as soon as they are able to work, perceive their loss, and will proceed at once, if they have the means, to supply it! They have not yet grown so hardened by habit to unnatural and ruinous courses, as not to feel that something absolutely indispensable to their safety is wanting in their hive.

A word to the young who may read this treatise. Although enjoined to "remember your Creator in the days of your youth," you are constantly tempted to neglect your religious duties, and to procrastinate their performance until some more convenient season. Like the old bees in a hive without a queen, that seek only their present enjoyment, forgetful of the ruin which must surely overtake them, so you may find that when manhood and old age arrive, you will have even less disposition to love and serve the Lord than [279] you now have. The fetters which bind you to sinful habits will have strengthened with years until you find both the inclination and ability to break them continually decreasing.

In the Spring, as soon as the weather becomes sufficiently pleasant, I carefully examine all the hives which do not present the most unmistakable evidences of health and vigor. If a queen is wanting, I at once, if the colony is small, break it up, and add the bees to another stock. If however, the colony should be very large, I sometimes join to it one of my small stocks which has a healthy queen. It may be asked why not supply the queenless stock with the means of raising another? Simply because there would be no drones to impregnate her, in season; and the whole operation would therefore result in an entire failure. Why not endeavor then to preserve it, until the season for drones approaches, and then give it a queen? Because it is in danger of being robbed or destroyed by the moth, while the bees, if added to another stock, can do me far more service than they could, if left to idleness in their old hive. It must be remembered that I am not like the bee-keepers on the old plan, extremely anxious to save every colony, however feeble: as I can, at the proper season, form as many as I want, and with far less trouble and expense than are required to make anything out of such discouraged stocks.

If any of my colonies are found to be feeble in the Spring, but yet in possession of a healthy queen, I help them to combs containing maturing brood, in the manner already described. In short, I ascertain, at the opening of the season, the exact condition of all my stock, and apply such remedies as I find to be needed, giving to some, maturing brood, to others honey, and breaking up all whose [280]condition appears to admit of no remedy. If however, the bees have not been multiplied too rapidly, and proper care was taken to winter none but strong stocks, they will need but little assistance in the Spring; and nearly all of them will show indubitable signs of health and vigor.

I strongly recommend every prudent bee-keeper who uses my hives, to give them all a most thorough over-hauling and cleansing, soon after the bees begin to work in the Spring. The bees of any stock may, with their combs, &c., all be transferred, in a few minutes, to a clean hive; and their hive, after being thoroughly cleansed, may be used for another transferred stock; and in this way, with one spare hive, the bees may all be lodged in habitations from which every speck of dirt has been removed. They will thus have hives which can by no possibility, harbor any of the eggs, or larvŠ of the moth, and which may be made perfectly free from the least smell of must or mould or anything offensive to the delicate senses of the bees. In making this thorough cleansing of all the hives, the Apiarian will necessarily gain an exact knowledge of the true condition of each stock, and will know which have spare honey, and which require food: in short, which are in need of help in any respect, and which have the requisite strength to lend a helping hand to others. If any hive needs repairing, it may be put into perfect order, before it is used again. Hives managed in this fashion, if the roofs and outside covers are occasionally painted anew, will last for generations, and will be found, on the score of cheapness, preferable, in the long run, to any other kind. But I ought to beg pardon of the Genius of American cheapness, who so kindly presides over the making of most of our manufactures, and under whose shrewd tuition we are fast beginning to believe that cheapness in the first cost of an article, is the main point to which our attention should be directed! [281]

Let us to be sure, save all that we can in the cost of construction, by the greatest economy in the use of materials; let us compel every minute to yield the greatest possible practical result, by the employment of the most skillful workmen and the most ingenious machinery; but do let us learn that slighting an article, so as to get up a mere sham, having all the appearance of reality, with none of the substance, is the poorest possible kind of pretended economy; to say nothing of the tendency of such a system, to encourage in all the pursuits of life, the narrow and selfish policy of doing nothing thoroughly, but everything with reference to mere outside show, or the urgent necessities of the present moment.

We have yet to describe under what circumstances, by far the larger proportion of hives, become queenless. After the first swarm has gone out with the old mother, then both the parent stock and all the subsequent swarms, will have each a young queen which must always leave the hive in order to be impregnated. It sometimes happens that the wings of the young female are, from her birth, so imperfect that she either refuses to sally out, or is unable to return to the hive, if she ventures abroad. In either case, the old stock must, if left to its own resources, speedily perish. Queens, in their contests with each other, are sometimes so much crippled as to unfit them for flight, and sometimes they are disabled by the rude treatment of the bees, who insist on driving them away from the royal cells. The great majority, however, of queens which are lost, perish when they leave the hive in search of the drones. Their extra size and slower flight make them a most tempting prey to the birds, ever on the watch in the vicinity of the hives; and many in this way, perish. Others are destroyed by sudden gusts of winds, which dash them against some hard object, or [282] blow them into the water; for queens are by no means, exempt from the misfortunes common to the humblest of their race. Very frequently, in spite of all their caution in noticing the position and appearance of their habitation, before they left it, they make a fatal mistake on their return, and are imprisoned and destroyed as they attempt to enter the wrong hive. The precautions which should be used, to prevent such a calamity, have been already described. If these are neglected, those who build their hives of uniform size and appearance, will find themselves losing many more queens than the person who uses the old-fashioned boxes, hardly any two of which look just alike.

The bees seem to me, to have, as it were, an instinctive perception of the dangers which await their new queen when she makes her excursion in search of the drones, and often gather around her, and confine her, as though they could not bear to have her leave! I have repeatedly noticed them doing this, although I cannot affirm with positive certainty, why they do it. They are usually excessively agitated when the queen leaves, and often exhibit all the appearance of swarming. If the queen of an old stock is lost in this way, her colony will gradually dwindle away. If the queen of an after-swarm fails to return, the bees very speedily come to nothing, if they remain in the hive; as a general rule, however, they soon leave and attempt to add themselves to other colonies.

It would be highly interesting to ascertain in what way the bees become informed of the loss of their queen. When she is taken from them under such circumstances as to excite the whole colony, then we can easily see how they find out that she is gone; for when greatly excited, they always seek first to assure themselves of her safety; just as a tender mother in time of danger forgets herself in her [283] anxiety for her helpless children! If however, the queen is carefully removed, so that the colony is not disturbed, it is sometimes a day, or even more, before they realize their loss. How do they first become aware of it? Perhaps some dutiful bee feels that it is a long time since it has seen its mother, and anxious to embrace her, makes diligent search for her through the hive! The intelligence that she cannot anywhere be found, is soon noised abroad, and the whole community are at once alarmed. At such times, instead of calmly conversing by merely touching each other's antennæ, they may be seen violently striking as it were, their antennæ together, and by the most impassioned demonstrations manifesting their agony and despair. I once removed a queen in such a manner as to cause the bees to take wing and fill the air in search of her. She was returned in a few minutes, and yet, on examining the colony, two days after, I found that they had actually commenced the building of royal cells, in order to raise another! The queen was unhurt and the cells were not tenanted. Was this work begun by some that refused for a long time to believe the others, when told that she was safe? Or was it begun from the apprehension that she might again be removed?

Every colony which has a new queen, should be watched, in order that the Apiarian may be seasonably apprised of her loss. The restless conduct of the bees, on the evening of the day that she fails to return, will at once inform the experienced bee-master of the accident which has befallen his hive. If the bees cannot be supplied with another queen, or with the means of raising one, if an old swarm it must be broken up, and the bees added to another stock; if a new swarm it must always be broken up, unless it can be supplied with a queen nearly mature, or else they will build [284] combs unfit for the rearing of workers. By the use of my movable comb hives, all these operations can be easily performed. If any hives have lost their young queen, they may be supplied, either with the means of raising another, or with sealed queens from other hives, or, (if the plan is found to answer,) with mature ones from the "Nursery."

As a matter of precaution, I generally give to all my stocks that are raising young queens, or which have unimpregnated ones, a range of comb containing brood and eggs, so that they may, in case of any accident to their queen, proceed at once, to supply their loss. In this way, I prevent them from being so dissatisfied as to leave the hive.

About a week after the young queens have hatched, I examine all the hives which contain them, lifting out usually, some of the largest combs, and those which ought to contain brood. If I find a comb which has eggs or larvŠ, I am satisfied that they have a fertile queen, and shut up the hive; unless I wish to find her, in order to deprive her of her wings, (see p. 203.) I can thus often satisfy myself in one or two minutes. If no brood is found, I suspect that the queen has been lost, or that she has some defect which has prevented her from leaving the hive. If the brood-comb which I put into the hive, contains any newly-formed royal cells, I know, without any further examination, that the queen has been lost. If the weather has been unfavorable, or the colony is quite weak, the young queen is sometimes not impregnated as early as usual, and an allowance of a few days must be made on this account. If the weather is favorable, and the colony a good one, the queen usually leaves, the day after she finds herself mistress of a family. In about two days more, she begins to lay her eggs. By waiting about a week before the examination is made, ample allowance, in most cases, is made. [285]

Early in the month of September, I examine carefully all my hives, so as to see that in every respect, they are in suitable condition for wintering. If any need feeding, (See Chapter on Feeding,) they are fed at this time. If any have more vacant room than they ought to have, I partition off that part of the hive which they do not need. I always expect to find some brood in every healthy hive at this time, and if in any hive I find none, and ascertain that it is queenless, I either at once break it up, or if it is strong in numbers supply it with a queen, by adding to it some feebler stock. If bees, however, are properly attended to, at the season when their young queens are impregnated, it will be a very rare occurrence to find a queenless colony in the Fall.

The practical bee-keeper without further directions, will readily perceive how any operation, which in the common hives, is performed with difficulty, if it can be performed at all, is reduced to simplicity and certainty, by the control of the combs. If however, bee-keepers will be negligent and ignorant, no hive can possible make them very successful. If they belong to the fraternity of "no eyes," who have kept bees all their lives, and do not know that there is a queen, they will probably derive no special pleasure from being compelled to believe what they have always derided as humbug or book-knowledge; although I have seen some bee-keepers very intelligent on most matters, who never seem to have learned the first rudiments in the natural history of the bee. Those who cannot, or will not learn for themselves, or who have not the leisure or disposition to manage their own bees, may yet with my hives, entrust their care to suitable persons who may, at the proper time, attend to all their wants. Practical gardeners may find the management of bees for their employers, to be quite a lucrative part of their profession. With but little extra labor [286] and with great certainty, they may, from time to time, do all that the prosperity of the bees require; carefully over-hauling them in the Spring, making new colonies, at the suitable period, if any are wanted, giving them their surplus honey receptacles, and removing them when full; and on the approach of Winter, putting all the colonies into proper condition, to resist its rigors. The business of the practical Apiarian, and that of the Gardener, seem very naturally to go together, and one great advantage of my hive and mode of management is the ease with which they may be successfully united.

Some Apiarians after all that has been said, may still have doubts whether the young queens leave the hive for impregnation; or may think that the old ones occasionally leave, even when they do not go out to lead a swarm. Such persons may, if they choose, easily convince themselves by the following experiments of the accuracy of my statements. About a week after hiving a second swarm, or after the birth of a young queen in a hive, and after she has begun to lay eggs, open the hive and remove her: carry her a few rods in front of the Apiary, and let her fly; she will at once enter her own hive and thus show that she has previously left it. If, however, an old queen is removed a short time after hiving the swarm, she will not be able to distinguish her own hive from any other, and will thus show that she has not left it, since the swarm was hived. If this experiment is performed upon an old queen, in a hive in which she was put the year before, when unimpregnated, the same result will follow; for as she never left it after that event, she will have lost all recollection of its relative position in the Apiary. The first of these experiments has been suggested by Dzierzon.

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Bee Culture: Loss of the Queen
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