To Die or Reset

Before the end of this bee season, I found a laying worker hive. Any beekeeper will know that this is the worst possible situation. The queen’s demise has left the hive without any clear direction—or brood for future generations. They will surely die.

To fix a laying worker hive you have to suppress worker ovaries.

Eggs of laying workers. To fix a laying worker hive you have to suppress worker ovaries.

Into this void steps regular female worker bees, whose eggs haven’t been fertilized. But she is determined to take the title of “queen bee” by laying, basically, empty bullets. She fills up the hive with unfertilized haploid eggs. They become drones. The hive fills up with boys and food. Without the diploid worker bee eggs from the Queen bee, the hive will surely die.

Drone

So, for the less bee- inclined among you, already you are saying, “please, what happened? Stop this bee-ease talk”.

Wisdom among many beekeepers is to dump the whole hive out in the yard and disorient the hive, hopefully dissuading the virgin bee that is dead set on a royal title.

Then, switch the hive to one that has fresh brood from another well endowed sister hive and put a few queen-right bars of brood, along with a mated queen in there. When the disoriented bees finally find their way back to the hive, it has been “reset”. The laying worker will be “balled” and thrown out, if the new queen has the blessing of the other workers.

Easier said than done.

Come to find out, this is NOT best practice. Beekeeping for dummies.

The youtube videos I watched were neat and easy. Bees were always cooperative and friendly. Clearly it had been rehearsed. Multiple times.

I obtained my queen on a late Sunday afternoon, the heat was a severe 97 degrees Fahrenheit. I needed to put her in before nightfall. Unfortunately, the storm clouds began to gather as we drove home. Big fat drops fell.

Bees hate rain.

I hate rain. Especially when I’m trying to work with the bees—mainly because they hate rain.

Nevertheless I recruited my husband. We valiantly suited up and I began to shake the bees out far from their hive, bar by bar. As the storm clouds receded, another kind of storm took over. Bees rose up in a tornado of indignation, no happy queen pheromones to mute their fury. First they found my bare feet inside my purple crocs. Then they found their way into my hood.

My husband stood aside and watched in fascination. I danced around the yard, until finally taking refuge in our screened in porch. I returned.

We shook those bees out, rearranged their reality, and stirred them up. big time. Some robber bees in the neighborhood came to join the melee. Honey dripping everywhere as the heat melted the Topbars of honeycomb like butter.

I raced to get all the brood, Topbars and the queen in her little cage arranged inside before the enraged and confused bees began their trek back to their hive.

All this to say, I think it worked. Before I closed them up for the winter, I checked. The girls are accepting the new queen.

Queen Bee

I am left to think about this thing of “re-setting” a hive…I am paying attention to the fact that I am in process of re-setting some things in my own life.

And then there is our culture. Seems like we are going through the same shake down. Especially around global climate chaos. We are in the midst of a big shuffle. A messy, gnarly shake down to reset our lifestyles and our body politic. Perhaps, pretty please, along with my girls, this re-set will take us all in a positive and life-giving direction.

I love what Greta Thunberg, the wonder girl for climate action, said:

When we start to act, hope is everywhere. So instead of looking for hope—look for action. Then the hope will come

Greta Thunberg

If we don’t find the courage to “shake it all out”, If we continue in the same trajectory, death will be a sure route. It should give us the courage to re-set.

Youth Global climate summits are coming up in cities across the country on Fridays.

Check out one near you! Join them. The youth are leading this time.

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