Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Queen of Cups

The earliest European playing cards were remarkably similar to the ones we use today. There were the cards that represented the royal courts, as well as the numerical cards. The "suits" of these early cards were swords, staffs, cups and coins, and in fact these same suits are still used in Italy, Portugal and Spain.

Why do I mention this?

Because we've got two colonies of bees that are apparently ruled by the Queen of Cups. Our bees, while industrious and healthy, are very keen on building queen cups all over the hives.

I'm trying not to fret about this. I think our queen bees are in good health, and are laying plenty of eggs. I don't think that the colonies are over-crowded and in peril of swarming. I have to believe that the bees are just building the queen cups in case something goes wrong and they have to quickly raise a new queen. They're planning for the future, which is hard to imagine as being part of the insect mind.

But -- dang -- the girls sure like to build these structures.

The bees are busy laying in stores. Here's a frame that pretty much filled with nectar that has been converted to honey. Once the bees evaporate the honey to the right percentage of water content, they'll cap the cells that contain honey with wax. You can see that this process is almost complete.

And that the bees have tucked in a few queen cups in the middle of the honeycomb.

Here is fresh nectar. It's beautiful and gleaming gold.

And there are two queen cups, hanging out on the bottom of the frame.

A glance inside the hive box shows more honey production. The bees are covering over the ripened honey.

And they've built a protruding structure, which ends in a queen cup.

This frame contains everything one might find in a beehive. Along the top edge, there's capped honey. Below that, there's a mixture of nectar and multi-colored pollen. There are eggs and larvae (the c-shaped grubs), some of which are being covered over with wax in preparation for their further metamorphoses into pupae and then baby bees.

And at the bottom of the frame, there's another queen cup.

The beehive is structured like file cabinet, filled with hanging file folders. When we inspect the hive, we remove individual frame, and we can hang them on a frame holder. This photo shows the bottom of two suspended frames.

And, hey! What's that on the bottom of the frames?

Queen cups!


LunaSea said...

The angle on the top photo, looking up at the tray, is really wonderful.
And the Queen Cup thing... makes me wonder if the Queen Bee knows what's going on. Is she aware that her workers are so vigorously preparing either for her (eventual) demise or for some of her subjects to leave her?
Maybe this is silly, but have yo named either of the Queens in your hives?

. . . Lisa and Robb . . . said...

We named the two hives -- Gloriana and Elizabeth Taylor. We're about to name the hive boxes, to help us keep track of things. If I ever saw our queens, I might be more inclined to address them. But, yeah, the colonies and queens share a name, in my mind.


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