Another week, another inspection! Which, theoretically, we are now slightly better at doing after a weekend course of theory and practical sessions. Having seen marked queens and therefore a better grounding for knowing what to look for, 4 intrepid apiarists went on the search for Albert.
While they at first seemed more agitated than usual they swiftly quietened down and we were pleased to see that fresh frames were being drawn out with wax (comb was being built by the bees). Brood frames (where the bees are born and bred) showed signs of queen activity as eggs were present. As eggs only last 3 days before turning to larvae, we knew Albert had been around in the past few days.
Can you see it? 3 cells down from the bee in the middle burying its head in the comb? Fancy a zoom and a crop to make it easier?
In 3 days that small white egg (which looks a lot like a size 12 font comma) will start to form a spiral of larvae before later pupating.
We continued through the frames looking for Albert, and when we found her she was unexpectedly unmarked.
She being the elongated bee in the middle with a trail of workers following her. It turns out that bees aren’t as busy as they are made out, and while industrious tend to spend wandering about the hive on breaks, and also finding the queen, licking her with their proboscises, because that’s what bees like to do.
We also saw her laying eggs.
As the nucleus of bees we received contained various stages of brood at the moment the population of the colony is relatively stable with new bees hatching as older foragers inevitably die, but in 2 weeks we should see a rapid increase in numbers as the eggs being laid from last week begin to hatch. I am curious to see what these bees look like, as these will be the first bees of our queen. Within a colony, there is great variation in the appearance of the bees due to super-sister subgroups, with some being greyer looking and others vibrant yellow, and I look forward to the emergence of Albert’s super-sister daughters.
Super-sisters share 75% of genetic material, opposed to 50% seen in most animal siblings due to the nature of the bee’s reproductive methods. These subgroups can be visibly different, but also this genetic variation goes some way to explain why some bees spend longer proportion of their existence performing a specific task relative to their half siblings.