It's now been nearly 6 weeks since I got my bees, and it's been a bit of a roller coaster. There's been a lot of fear-facing, and worry, and feeling, confoundingly, concerned that the bees don't like me. (Let's not dissect that right now.) I've been waiting to post here until I can say confidently that I think they are okay, but now I'm just posting to say I don't know what the fuck is going on.
I've read many books, and my Facebook feed's been overtaken with bee-related posts, so I recognize a lot. Ideally, when you inspect a hive, pulling out each of the frames of the hive and looking at what's going on with them, you will at minimum see eggs, larvae in a few stages, and what's called capped brood, which is the pupal stage of baby bees. You'll also see honey and pollen and nectar, in the cell surrounding the brood nest. (And, you know thousands of bees.) If you're lucky, you'll see the queen bee, who resembles Lindsey Lohan only a little around the eyes. It's not necessary to lay eyes on the queen: as long as you see evidence of her, i.e. eggs, you know she's been alive and well in the last day or two.
I have never seen the queen, nor any eggs, though I was chalking both of those last ones up to inexperience and poor eyesight. During my last two weekly inspections, I did not see any larvae either. Instead, I found a number of queen cells, which are peanut-shaped bunches of wax where the workers can raise a new queen.
The workers might need to do this if they are over crowded, and the old queen leads half the hive to new digs. They might do it if a ham-fisted beekeeper squashes the queen accidentally. Or they might decide that they don't like the direction the hive is going, and cut a bitch.
I'll probably never know why they've decided to raise a new queen, only that they have, and that one or more was born sometime last week; I know because two queen cells were chewed open from the bottom. They likely duked it out, with one emerging victorious, in some dramatic fight scene in the dark of the hive.
It's easy to see the queen as in control of everything; she's the only one of the females that reproduces, the worker bees care for her, feed her and protect her. But the workers are the ones who truly decide. They decide when there will be a new queen, and will choose which little eggs have the potential to be leaders by feeding them a concoction called royal jelly.
It's hard not to meddle, in my bumbling way. I won't go into the hive this weekend, except to add more sugar water to their feeder. Opening the hive and using smoke and pulling up the frames upsets the order of things; like if someone pulled the roof off your house and blew cigars in your face and rearranged your furniture. You'd be a little fucked up after that. You probably wouldn't go to work for a few days.
So I'm keeping out of the hive this weekend, and trusting them, because they know what they need.
Has the world changed or have I changed?