On May 10th, Skylar drove to the Bee Maid Coop to exchange the dead queen for a live one. Forty-eight hours after Worth and I installed the bees, I returned to the Ranch with Mom on bear-spray duty. I put my bee suit on and headed over to the queen-less hive to install the new queen. Things seemed a bit odd and eerily quiet. I lifted the lid on the hive and not a single bee was in sight! I lifted the lid on the second hive and saw that the little monsters had moved next door. I was gutted and did not know what to do. After a few moments of panic, I scrolled through the emails on my phone and found an instructor’s (from the Basic Beekeeping course) number in an email. Now, I would not recommend trying to operate a cell phone with bee gloves on. After several attempts to ring Craig, he rang me back. I pulled my glove off at the risk of getting stung to answer the phone. No doubt Craig gets calls from panicked beekeepers more often than not. Feeling immensely embarrassed, I took a few deep breaths and explained my dilemma. Craig calmly suggested that if I wished to save the queen, then the hive would have to be split. I gulped. For less than a novice beekeeper, this was a huge ask. I heard stories about inexperienced beekeepers maiming and, or killing the queen while handling the frames. I did not want to be one of “them.”
As Craig gently communicated what needed to happen, I became somewhat calmer and, with huge resistance, summoned the courage to begin splitting the hive. First, I changed the direction of the hive entrance, so that it was now facing north instead of south. As Craig explained, this would increase the likelihood of the bees returning to (from foraging) and remaining in their new hive. Next, I removed five of the empty frames and took the lid off the hive that was abuzz with activity. To be honest, I can’t really remember how many frames I took out as I was too stressed to think that clearly. Craig suggested that I find the queen to ensure that I did not move her over to the second hive. I thought, oh fudge, would I be able to identify the queen even if I saw her? I chose the outer most frames where the queen was unlikely to be. Frame in hand, with not so happy kamikaze bees diving into me, I searched for the queen. Satisfied that she was not present, I placed the frame in the vacant hive and repeated the process a few more times. I breathed a sigh of relief; everything was going smoothly. It was time to put the new queen in. Using my small beekeeping gloves that are entirely too big, I fumbled around with the cage and… inadvertently opened it. A gong show was unfolding before my eyes. The cage was supposed to remain unopened in the hive until the colony had at least 24 hours to get used to the queen otherwise they might kill her.
Should I close the cage? But then I thought, what if I break her leg or worse, squish her? I quickly placed the cage on the bottom of the hive… she was still inside… so maybe that was OK?? All I had to do now was to grab the last empty frame. Just as I was about to put the frame back in the hive, I saw it… the cage was empty; she did not waste any time getting out. I felt sick.