Long Live Queen Charlotte
Mentioned a few days ago that I was starting a new hive of bees. My problem was that the existing hive's queen bee was doing an excellent job and the folk were showing no sign of wanting to de-throne her by preparing replacement princesses. This process is what normally creates the conditions of a swarm naturally splitting the hive.
For most beekeepers, avoiding a swarm is imperative, hence the regular weekly checks in the main season, which is aimed at finding the princess cells and destroying them - or - if you want to increase your hives, you remove one of these princess cells and put it in a new hive with a number of frames of brood cells, honey stores and worker bees who then activate the princess, she flies out one day on her maiden flight, meets up with some male drones in flight & with luck flies home as a queen to spend the next two or three years (live max 5-6 years) laying 3000 odd eggs a day during the season.
Worker bees can get around the lack of or loss of the queen in an emergency but it is all full of danger. The safest way is to buy a queen bee and introduce her to the split-off queenless hive. Several beekeepers specialise in breeding queens, often going to great lengths to achieve better, quieter etc DNA lines. One such practice is sending the princesses on holiday to special areas where there are good male drones and safe flying conditions. Two such areas are the Alps & the North/Baltic Sea coast. Beekeepers clubs will get together and ship a van & trailer full of such small princess hives the 800km from southern Bavaria to the coast & islands, leave them there for a few weeks & then return to bring the new queens home!
In my search for a queen, I stumbled on the fact that today was "Open Day" at the Bavarian Beekeepers School near Kaufbeuren, a 30km drive away. There are seven such schools in Bavaria & all linked in a semi-state sponsored organisation including the State Bee Research Institute within the Ministry of Agriculture. There are in excess of 35,000 registered beekeepers in Bavaria with around 300,000 hives organised in clubs associated to the Bavarian Beekeepers Society which in turn is in the German Society. The Bavarian State with the help of EU funds gives grants to new beekeepers for equipment and the schools for holding courses.
The day was not ideal - thunderstorms last night & forecast all day. Bees hate thunderstorms! Farrier Richard was early morning so I had to walk Luna starting off in the rain after a storm and it was mid-morning before I left and I needed to be back soon after lunch.
Lovely cross-country drive without rain. Very impressed with the schoolhouse with its classroom & honey harvesting/equipment rooms. Loads of displays & people. In the small garden a number of displays, a lovely man-size wooden carved bear eating honeycomb, a swarm had been let out onto a tree watched over by a guy in Lederhosen & as in the main photo, the "press" were surrounding Queen Katharina I, the 2017-9 Bavarian Honey Queen. Bavarians have queens for almost every branch of agriculture - hops, wine, potatoes, asparagus .....
AS I had so little time, I didn't take the short walk down to the area where the school's hives are located but concentrated on the sports field attached to the school where a beer tent with hot & cold food had been set up, a number of stands selling beekeeping equipment and three individuals selling small boxes of beehives. I asked one about queens - just sold out. Could see no sign of queens on the next but luckily the third had some. So I acquired Queen Charlotte (my granddaughter's name) & as the heavens opened dashed back to the car.
The rain stopped before I got to the neighbouring village of Irsee, a well-known centre for conferences around the Imperial Benedictine Abbey. Sadly no time to have a stroll but took a quick photo of the abbey & maypole, Also stopped on the drive home to take a photo of what looks like a chapel & probably was in a 10 house hamlet. It is now the fire brigade house!
Finally home, thunderstorms coming and quickly put the little matchbox size plastic box with Queen Charlotte into the hive and watch the workers go crazy as they smelt the pheromone she gives off. To get her out of the cage, they will now eat through a "plug" of sugar fondant in the cage and she can set to work.
Afternoon storms but by evening managed another walk with Luna around the fields. Today 7/7 is the day one says the maize/corn should be at least 77cm tall if it is to ripen. It is. Due to the very cold spring, it is nowhere near last year but the best fields are at least 150cm. Soon the wretched stuff will hinder the view on walks - Grrrrr. It had been threatening more storms as we set off but by the end, the sun came out & Luna did get to have a swim in the lakes.