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CHAPTER XIV Edit

REARING AND INTRODUCING QUEENS

QUEEN-REARING

IN a small apiary there is little need for the special rearing of queens ; the natural increase may safely be depended upon to supply all the colonies which lose their queens or which have unprofitable ones. It is always well for even the most casual bee-keeper to take the trouble to re-queen from his strongest and best colonies. However, the time when queen cells are naturally built may not be the most convenient or the most desirable time for giving certain colonies a new mother. This being the case, queens may be developed through the power of suggestion, as follows: Select a frame of brood from the best colony; with a toothpick tear down the partitions between three worker cells which contain eggs or larvae less than two days old and destroy two of the eggs or larvae; repeat the operation in several places. Place the frame back in the hive, being very sure that there is sufficient space between it and its neighbouring frame, so that good queen cells may be built. If there is a scarcity of honey, feed the bees. The cleverness of bees is clearly proven by the readiness with which they take a hint, and they almost invariably build queen cells upon the comb thus treated.

This method we have found perfectly satisfactory, but for those who rear queens for sale, other very interesting practices have been invented. The greatest of these was devised by Mr. Doolittle, one of the foremost queen-breeders in America. He makes artificial queen cells by dipping a small, smoothly rounded stick in warm wax repeatedly, thus making a little cup, thin at the edge and thick at the bottom. Rows of these little cups are placed on a bar the thick- ness of a brood-frame and fastened there with hot wax. In each cup is introduced a bit of royal jelly and a very young larva. The bar is then inserted horizontally into a frame of brood-comb, part of the latter being cut away to give room for the future cells, which project down from the bar. In such a royal nursery, he develops his queens for the mar- ket.

INTRODUCING QUEENS

Though royalty in the hive is of quite another feather than in human society, yet there is quite as much ado when it comes to installations in one as in the other. While a bee-colony is absolutely devoted to its own queen, it may seriously object to a queen thrust upon it by some outside power. And thus it happens that the introduction of a new queen into a hive is fraught with danger to her majesty as well as to the pocket-book of the bee- keeper.


BALLING THE QUEEN

"Balling" in the hive is an indignity that may well have suggested to other societies the method of black-balling unwelcome seekers after honours. The bees ball an unwelcome queen by gathering around her in a compact mass, remaining there until the unfortunate usurper is smothered or starved, or both. As if to live up to their mathematical reputation, this ball is quite spherical because each bee is an animated atom of centripetal force scrambling and pushing toward the centre. This method of smoth- ering royalty is regarded as an evidence of the worker's reluctance to sting a fertile queen. But observations are recorded which state that the bees on the outside of the ball seem fiercely trying to sting, and that the individuals nearest the queen ofttimes share her fate because of this venomous attitude of their sisters. Whether this use of the sting by the outsiders is for the purpose of fighting their way toward the centre, or whether they are mad with a desire to kill the queen, is by no means a settled question. However, if they were bent upon stinging her to death, she would scarcely be alive after having been balled for some time; while it is a matter of common experience that by breaking up the ball and driving off the murderers, the queen may be saved. Sometimes the bees will ball a queen for a time, then voluntarily release her and accept her.

There are two ways generally followed for dis- solving this lump of excited regicides and saving the queen. One is to drop the ball in a shallow bowl of water. This baptism seems to cool the hot blood and the bees swim off, trying to preserve their own lives. The other is to smoke the ball until it dissolves into individual bees, so anxious to get breath for themselves that they forget to shut off the breath of the obnoxious queen. There is a danger attend- ing the latter method, for unless the smoking be done carefully and without blowing hot air on the bees, they will become infuriated by the heat and surely sting the queen; as they evidently regard her, and rightly, as the cause of their suffering.

WHEN TO INTRODUCE A QUEEN

The colony should have been queenless long enough to realise the danger of the situation, but not long enough to have done much toward build- ing queen cells and developing larval queens; in the latter case they prefer a queen of their own dynasty and object to any other. Thus, if a queen is to be superseded she should be -removed and, about two days later, the new one should be introduced.

It requires experience to know certainly that a colony has become queenless, for often, when there is no brood or eggs in the cells there is a virgin queen, which eludes the eye, as she does not appear very differently from the workers; a colony with virgin queens of its own cannot be induced to accept an introduced queen.


Mr. Root tests a colony which he suspects is queenless in the following clever way: He takes a cage containing a laying queen and holds it over the frames so that it touches them and the bees may thus get the scent. If the bees have no queen they express their pleasure at this godsend in a very pretty manner by a joyful fluttering of the wings, which conveys the idea of happiness to even our dull senses. To such a colony, the queen may be given with no formalities.

HOW TO INTRODUCE A QUEEN

The colony should be made good-natured by having plenty of food. If there is scarcity of honey, the bees should be fed for a day or so, great care being taken not to start other colonies to robbing by exposing the syrup. The queen is then intro- duced in a queen-cage, which should be placed be- tween the brood-combs. This should be done as carefully as possible without disturbing the bees. At the end of forty-eight hours an examination should be made, and if the bees are balling the cage, she should be left twenty-four hours longer. When the bees gather around the cage in normal numbers she may be entrusted to them without fear.

QUEEN-CAGES

First of these are the shipping-cages, and it is a thrilling moment when one takes a package from the mail, labelled "Queen Bee, Deliver Quick." And it is still more exciting when the cover slides around, revealing her gracious majesty with a few attendants, safe beneath the wire screen; for no bee- dealer would be so heartless or foolish as to send a queen on a journey without a few ladies-in-waiting to give her companionship and care.

The cage in which a queen is shipped is always tagged or labelled with directions for introducing the queen, which, if followed implicitly, almost always insures success.

The plan of a queen-cage is a cell made of wire screen with twelve to fifteen meshes to the square inch, large enough to allow the bees to thrust in their antennae and thus get acquainted with their proposed sovereign, but not large enough to permit a sting to be effectively thrust through. The cell, itself, is large enough so that the prisoner will not suffocate if the cage is balled. At one end of the cage is an opening into which is pressed a cork of candy, over which is tacked a piece of pasteboard, through which is a central line of perforations. At first the bees are wild to get at the queen, and in- cidentally in their attack they get a taste of the candy through the holes in the pasteboard. This distracts their attention, and they work indus- triously at biting away the pasteboard to get at the candy. And by the time they have worked their way through the delectable door, their attitude to- wards the prisoner is naturally sweetened, and usually they accept her at once. The " Good candy is used for this purpose, for the queen is also sus- tained on this confection during her incarceration, and unless a moist candy is used, she will suffer for lack of water.

Home-made cages are usually employed in intro- ducing queens from the home apiary. These are of various forms and devices, the Miller being a favour- ite. His materials are as follows: One block of wood 3 x 1| x f in.; two blocks of wood 1 x 7-16 x f in.; two pieces of tin 1 in. square; two pieces of fine wire 9 in. long; one piece of wire-cloth 4^ x 3^ in.; four wire nails % in. long. (Plate V.)

The illustration shows how the material is used. The space between the two small blocks of wood, held in place by the pieces of tin forms a door for the candy. The large piece of wood serves as a plug at the other end of the cage, which may be removed, and the cage set down over the queen, thus capturing her without handling her. When a queen is placed in a cage she should always be allowed to climb up into it. It is not natural for her to climb down.

THE NUCLEUS METHOD

This method of introducing very valuable queens is said by experts to be absolutely safe. It is accom- plished by making a nucleus of two or three frames of brood, which is sealed and some of it just breaking through the cell caps. Not an adult bee is permitted to remain, and there should be as few uncapped larvae as possible, since such will starve. The queen is placed on these combs and the young bees, as they issue innocent of men's scheming, accept her as their legitimate mother, and a colony is soon built up. A nucleus hive of this sort must be placed in a warm room, unless it is hot weather, as there are no bees to warm the brood. Care must also be taken to put a wire screen over the entrance of the hive for a day or two to prevent the queen from escaping if she becomes uneasy midst such a dreary waste of adolescence.

MAXIMS FOR INTRODUCING QUEENS

Be sure the colony is queenless before attempting to introduce a queen.

Be sure the bees have not progressed far in rearingyoung queens.

Be careful not to anger or disturb the bees by smoke or hot blast or otherwise when placing the queen in the hive.

If honey is scarce, feed the colony before trying to introduce the queen.

Place the cage containing the queen on the frames near the centre of the brood-chamber, wire cloth below her, so that the cage rests on the bars of the frames.

Do not disturb the colony for forty-eight hours after introducing the queen-cage.

Be careful not to allow the queen to escape by flight when liberating her.

Remember, a queen crawls up instead of down.

After queens are two or three years old they should be replaced by young queens.

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