Two sisters, two urban gardens, and a question: How much of our families' food can we produce ourselves?
Moving toward sustainability on urban farms
Sunday, May 31, 2009
Beeee, beee beee BEEEE
Not just a silly title; it's my new response to any troublesome stimulus.
And where did I learn this useful skill? Today, when I was doing hive inspections on the three hives, I heard it in the middle hive -- the most confusing to me of all of them. I saw everything (hey, Denise, remember that from "Extras"?) in it. Brood, both drone and worker, eggs, all the sizes of larvae, emerging workers, bee bread, pollen, capped honey, uncapped nectar, comb being drawn, the queen stalking around, an opened queen cell -- with its little cap opening still hanging on -- and four uncapped, unhatched queen cells.
The queen was walking around right by number four. I don't know if she was making the noise or the about-to-emerge challenger, but loudly and distinctly, I heard it: "Beeeeee, beeee beee, beeeeeeeee, beeee beee." It was so loud that it actually drew my attention to the frame.
"When I talk to an audience, I always ask for a show of hands of who has actually heard queen piping and the result is usually about 50% of the beekeepers present. Then I ask who reckons to hear it at least once every year and further questioning establishes that all these people have more than 20 hives. This is more or less in line with my own experience; with an average of 8 hives over 20 years, I have heard it just 3 times. What this means is that an average beekeeper with 2 hives is likely to hear it once every 25 years! Clearly it is a pretty rare phenomenon. Piping is the sound a queen makes when she detects the proximity of another queen and the words used to describe it are bleating, honking, croaking or mewing. For my money, the nearest sound I can think of is the crying of seagulls when they are competing for your sandwiches. The only time you get two queens in the hive is around swarming and they will usually be virgins that have emerged after the swarm has left. Imagine the difficulty in carrying out research on a sound that in any particular hive, occurs for only a few days in every one or two years!"
There you have it; lucky me. So today, not only do I wish I had had my camera with me, I wish I had the video recorder too. Since I didn't, I'd be happy to make the noise for anyone who asks from now on.