Over the past winter, we lost both beehives and I was really upset because the bees had survived treatment free for so long and the hives were about seven years old. We set the hives up with swarm lure and crossed our fingers while we waited for two nucs that we ordered.
Then before time to pick up the nucs, the coronavirus arrived. Luckily our swarm lure worked and a swarm moved into one of the hives. We were ecstatic. But then the schools closed for the year and we couldn't access the building to check on the swarm. On the first Monday after the schools closed, a day when the teachers were allowed in, we met in the morning and checked on the hive, which looked good. We set it up with an extra box, just in case, and barely looked at it because of time constraints, planning to come back the next week.
As the nation became aware of the severity of the virus, access to the school was no longer allowed. I was worried about the hive and didn't feel like it would be OK without our getting to look at it and add a nectar/honey box. But last week, the principal was going to be there and we could go check on our hive!
Meghan and I opened the hive and pulled out frame after frame of honey and nectar. There was no brood anywhere, not anywhere. The hive would have died in a matter of a couple of weeks without a queen.
"I have to go pull a frame of brood and eggs from one of my hives," I told Meghan. "I can be back in 30 minutes." With a frame of brood and eggs, the bees in the hive could make a new queen.
I rushed home, opened one of my hives and pulled a frame of brood and eggs. "HURRY," Meghan texted me. The security guard had announced that only the principal and the cleaning staff could be in the building, but since we were saving the life of the hive (Meghan must have been really convincing), we could stay only long enough to insert the frame of brood and eggs.
Back up to the rooftop garden we rushed, and I took off the top and inserted the frame of brood and eggs into the middle box. I removed a frame of honey to make room for the frame and gave it to Meghan to take home and harvest. With the top back on the hive, I looked down at the entry to see how things looked and something amazing happened.
The bees were standing at attention, frozen and all facing the same way. I'm almost 100% sure I saw a queen bee enter the hive. I thought of how we rise for royalty and this must be the bees' version!
Then Meghan told me and I read in Mark Winston that the bees often freeze on the front landing and emit nasonov to help a queen on her mating flight find her way home.
Sometimes swarms, once they are settled, get rid of the old queen who came with them to get them started and make a new queen. This must be what had happened in the six weeks since the school closed. Meghan grabbed her phone and made a wonderful movie to share with the school students, now studying at home, on this Earth Day. And she gave me permission to share it with you. Video made by Meghan McCloskey for SPARK Elementary and shared here with permission. Watch to see the bees standing at attention.
Today is Earth Day - love the Google logo for today - featuring honeybees.