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The queen with a surprise

I had two firstsIMG_8672 this weekend: one routine, the other a first in two decades of beekeeping — I was stung by a queen!

The routine first was hive inspection for the first time this year. All colonies were alive and well, though one was perilously close to running out of food. Its demeanor showed how close they were to a dreadful demise. They had sealed brood, but were smart enough to be tending no new brood. They were becoming demoralised. and rather sluggish. However, their mood was transformed in minutes with the arrival, of emergency food supplies. I hope and think they will revitalise quickly.

Other colonies were busy bringing in the pollen even though there was no obvious source for their bright yellow pollen baskets. Despite the mild winter, spring is now quite late in southern England because of the decidedly chilly February and March.

The other first was a real novelty for me. I lifted a fine looking yellow queen to mark her and she obviously took objection to such an indignity. To my amazement she stung me on my thumb. The sting sensation was indistinguishable from a worker’s sting, but looked quite different: there was no black barb to be seen, just the white venom.

Fortunately, queens don’t die when they sting. Their stinger has no bard and can be withdrawn without damage to herself. A queen’s sting is normally reserved for other queens, so I am not sure why she picked on me! The rest of the colony seemed good tempered, but I will be keeping an eye on her!

Vita’s Guest Beekeeper Blogger



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