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.

Tonight, when I was researching this, I found, in Rex Boyes' "Listen to the Bees:"

"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.


patricia said...

What a thrill!

Yes, I'd like you do the queen piping for me. I don't want to wait 25 years to hear it.

Esperanza said...

Wow! What a great experience. I had to try to find an example after reading your blog. I found a lengthy You Tube but it does have the piping about 7+ minutes in:

Stefaneener said...

Tricia, any time.

Now I have to email my mentors and ask them about what to do with that hive.

Ktrion said...

I hope they don't tell you to slay the virgin queens. If they do, we'll have to write a very long ballad about it.

Kristin said...

It's just weird that everything looks fine and they want to replace her. No wonder she's making that noise. I'd be miffed too. I too would like to hear the piping sound from you at park day please.

Susan said...

I would love to hear the piping! I wonder how they make it. Wings?