The Empty Throne
I hold as a firm tenet that in most things related to beekeeping the bees know better than I. Those times when I impose my will are few. I reserve them for where a natural tendency might lead to the destruction of the colony or where I insist upon a honey tax in return for letting them live in my small wooden boxes. Sometimes I forget and must be reminded. When the workers built supersedure cells to replace a favorite queen of mine I had in mind a royal rescue. I thought there was nothing wrong with her. The bees knew better.
When I opened the hive again to find the supercedure cell capped the brood nest was clogged. Capped brood were emerging everywhere. My previous efforts to open the brood nest were nothing compared to the forager's dedication to the cause and two more frames were clogged with nectar. Most disturbing however, were the empty cells. No eggs anywhere. No larva anywhere. No sign of the queen, though I spent half an hour looking for her.
Where had she gone, the once leader of this colony? I could not say. A week ago the colony still had larva, so ten days before she was still at work. The larva I had seen last inspection were fat, C shaped, a couple days from being capped for their adult transformation. The brood pattern was tight, nest was packed and only the supersedure cells gave warning that problems abounded. I theorized that her supersedure was based on a lack of space to lay and planned a quiet coup de tat. I would spirit the queen away to live in repose in a nuc. The bees knew better.
Where has she gone? A queen on her own is lost, helpless and will starve. I found no evidence of her anywhere. A daughter waits to emerge in three days and take her place, but of the once regent there was no sign. The bees knew and prepared for a calamity I could not see coming. They were ready for an event that would have spelled the end of the colony. I have learned to read the stories written in the wax walls, to read from the cells a tale of the colonies health but again I am reminded. I am not a bee. The queen is dead. Long live the queen.