Stories & Tales - Requeening

Requeening The business of requeening, by an interested bystander. Meet at the appointed time - the Queen Breeder (who shall be known as "B"), the client (we'll call him "L"), and the interested bystander. All pile into one car and head off to the hive site. Return one hour and unknown kilometres later to uplift the queen who is still tucked up snugly in her Queen cage in the hot water cupboard. Lesson No. One: When on a requeening mission - don't leave home without your Queen!

Requeening

The business of requeening, by an interested bystander.

Meet at the appointed time - the Queen Breeder (who shall be known as "B"), the client (we'll call him "L"), and the interested bystander. All pile into one car and head off to the hive site. Return one hour and unknown kilometres later to uplift the queen who is still tucked up snugly in her Queen cage in the hot water cupboard. Lesson No. One: When on a requeening mission - don't leave home without your Queen!

Set off again - hive is quite visible from the road - but is approachable only through five farm gates, unless you own a vehicle with the prowess of a mountain goat. Lesson No. Two: Beekeepers are a unique breed possessed of an uncanny ability to find remote and inaccessible hive sites, often positioned where man has never set foot before.

Remove hive lid and its "Action Stations"! Greetings by thousands of the little black varmints (or whatever the female equivalent is - interested bystander hears many interpretations - none of them printable), who in less time than it takes to write this story, investigate and advise in stinging terms of the weakness, design defects, and improper zipping-up of hive suits. The inadvertent dropping of a frame does nothing to alleviate the mood of the black fiends, and it becomes almost a "short straw" job to get down and sort amongst the writhing mass of dropped bees, in case the Queen to be replaced is amongst them. A decided lack of interest in making the personal acquaintance of 60-thousand close relatives to the hornet sees the interested bystander elect to carry boxes to the middle of the paddock, shake each frame clean, and rehouse them. The hive is rebuilt, complete with queen cage in place, and a hasty retreat made. Unfortunately, nobody bothers to tell the bees of the proposed departure, and they decide to hasten the process. Lesson No. Three: It is not recommended that vehicle windows be left open when dealing with relatives of the African Killer Bee.

Return four days later - B, L, and the interested bystander, who has learned one lesson from the previous session and so is wearing several layers of clothing (of course today is the day it choses to be 30oC in the shade!). Plan the escape route and park facing home some distance from the hive. Unfortunately, four days have also given the bees time to plan, and they greet all in the most intimate manner as B, L, and the bystander hop out of the vehicle, and just as quickly hop back in. Rearrange suits, then approach hive in close formation. A thick covering of bees gives an impression of escapees from the Black and White Minstrel show, not helped by B tripping over the electric fence and fetching the hive a belt. If you ever want to announce your arrival with style, this has to be the way to do it. Similarly, a gap left between hive suit leg and gumboot is a sure way to watch a new version of St. Vitus's dance - purely as an interested bystander of course. Quickly disassemble the hive down to the queen cage, only to find that those black varmints have dealt to her in a terminal manner. L and bystander stand (in B's case hop), around the queenless antisocial hive debating the pros and cons of requeening or a quick job with a can of diesel. The (rapidly dis)interested bystander goes for the diesel option, but is overruled, and so there is another quick trip home in the vehicle, together with, it would seem, half the hive! Collect a second queen, return trip and the bees are waiting at the road to greet in their usual familiar fashion - the bill for the replacement queen will probably equate to the bill for squashed and flattened bees and loss of production. The landowner also comes to the gate, but beats a hasty retreat when the varmints check out his shorts, bare arms, and farm dog. However, the muffled cries and slapping noises are ignored and our intrepid trio plough relentlessly on. A quick check for queen cells (heaps), and placing of the replacement queen cage, re-assembling of the hive and yet another hasty retreat. B and L elect to walk back down to the road doing peculiar arm and body motions en-route, while bystander gets to drive back together with a buzzy fan club.

On a scale of 1 to 10 for aggressiveness, B and L decide that this hive warrants a 20+. The interested bystander makes a mental note to be unavoidably otherwise engaged when it comes to releasing the replacement queen, no matter what day it is!. Lesson No Four: Don't answer the phone, or else plead inexcusably busy, to any combined exercise proposed by B & L.

Four days later; B, L, and the (screaming) bystander are en-route to the hive site once again - the adrenalin mounts during negotiation of the five gates and freshly bulldozed goat track, and surreptitious parking below the crest of the hill. Surreptitious is not in the Black Bee Directory - or else they haven't read the book yet. The bystander muses upon a recently drawn life insurance policy, and wonders whether venturing knowingly, but unwillingly amidst wild bees becomes an exemption under the suicide clause! This time it is L's turn to leave an air space between the top of his gumboot and bottom of hive-suit, and gyrates off into the paddock waving the smoker madly and incurring the wrath of several thousand more of the little sods in the process. B and bystander plug on steadfastly, dismantling the hive box by box, frame by frame, searching for and destroying queen cells in the process. Breaths are held as the queen cage is inspected - is she alive or isn't she? SHE IS! Cut out the release on the cage and replace on the frame. Down to the bottom box, where one queen cell lurks, then reassemble, again closely inspecting each frame. A stray bee has found its way into B's hood, but he waves away the bystander's efforts at face-swatting and L's attempts at asphyxiation with the smoker, declaring he would rather be stung! (that remark is borne in mind for future reference). The hive is rebuilt and a hasty retreat beaten to the middle of the paddock. There our band discovers a large cluster of bees in the grass where the frames were dumped on the second visit, four days ago. A hands and knees inspection of the clump reveals the elusive Queen - not marked as per the original, but a stray black job who has infiltrated. Lesson No Five: Nurture your gold Queen - she's the kind of girl you (and your neighbours) want in your apiary.

L produces a spray bottle of soapy water and the bunch is drenched, as are B and the bystander, when they happen to put themselves between the spray bottle and alone bee. At that point it is decided that walking to the gate is the preferred option, with L left to his spray ministrations. - a strong resemblance to the Statue of Liberty is noted as he holds the bottle upwind and pumps furiously dowsing himself in a fine mist. Reassemble at the roadside, do the usual strip act, to the bemusement of several passing motorists, then a beeline for home. Lesson No Six: Do not tell stories like the above to those not smitten with the beekeeping bug - not if you want backyard beekeeping to remain a legitimate activity in your neighbourhood.

Annonymous