Thursday, April 23, 2009
The Queens have arrived
Our friend at the PO called this morning to let us know that the new Queens were here. They are all Italians, all marked with a blue dot. If you enlarge the picture below you can see the dot on the Queen to the left. All the others are nurse bees who fed and groomed the queen during her journey north from Georgia, and will keep tending to her in the days to come; they will munch their way through the sugar patty that corks up the box and release her into the hive, by which time, so we hope, the thousands of bees will have accepted her pheromone and embraced her as their new Queen.
When we first started beekeeping I always named the Queens. Our very first one was Camilla, for Prince Charles' lady friend (I identified with the old farts finding love in middle age). The next ones we named for CSB's old girlfriends from his days in New Mexico. (Not the x-wife, I'm not that crazy.) When we ran out of ex-girlfriends (CSB was debonair but not a Casanova) we named them for attractive female friends. But we kept getting more hives, and existing hives swarmed, taking the Queen off to new digs, and it became too confusing. So we name them no more. But every time they arrive the old impulse rears itself up, the naming impulse, the impulse to differentiate and specify.
A few years ago I was in a bus outside Cairo and another impulse, the curious one, caused me to ask our guide about bees in Egypt. He told me a story. When he was a boy his grandfather had a melon farm beside the Nile in Upper Egypt and kept bees. He decided to repopulate his hives with European bees and so ordered a Queen from Italy. This Queen crossed the Mediterranean on a freighter and then traveled by train down to the grandfather's village. Our guide was visiting the day the message came from the stationmaster that his grandfather's Queen had arrived. He remembers the happiness on his grandfather's face as he said,"My new Queen is here, and she is Italian."
That was the sum total of what he told me about bees in Egypt. I have since learned that there is quite a bit more. The Egyptians in Pharaonic times kept bees on barges on the Nile and when the trees in one spot had finished their flowering, the keepers moved the barges at night to another fruitful mooring.