Tuesday, June 5, 2012

How to Kill a Queen

[Warning:  This post unapologetically discusses the premeditated killing of an insect and contains quite a bit of gallows humor.   Just saying.]

So, the queen in our Flower Lang wasn't laying right.  

At all.

We suspected a problem during this inspection, and then the next inspection confirmed it.   She's a really bad layer.   I watched her for a while with a magnifying glass and noticed that she went into the cell to lay, but didn't let go of the egg and it came back up with her.   No eggs were getting in the cells.

This is problematic. 

The eggs are supposed to be in the bottom of the cell.   All neat and tidy and regular.  

That's the queen's job.  It's the only job she has.   The Only.  Job.


When a queen isn't doing her job, she jeopardizes the whole hive.   They'll all be dead in just a few weeks. 

This means that a bad queen has to be killed and replaced.   I double checked with the Beemaster Forum and they confirmed.    We had to pinch the queen.


There is no queen killing service, that I know of.   I mean, I'm sure that if I had connections to the underworld, I could probably hire someone to kill a queen, but not this kind of queen.

It's the kind of thing, a beekeeper just has to do for herself. 

Double drat.

And it all brings up the question of just how one goes about killing a queen.    When experienced beekeepers call it 'pinching the queen', they mean it literally.


I just didn't see myself pinching my queen. 

So we considered other options.   But first we had to find her and get her out of the hive as soon as we could so that the bees would either start making a new queen or be accepting of one we put in there for them. 

This means going to the hive, opening it up and searching every frame until you find her.   

The sun was low in the sky when we got home that day and by the time we found her the sun had gone down behind the trees and the bees were getting a little antsy to get us the heck out of the hive.  

We finally found her and Eric got her in the little handy dandy queen catcher.   He handed it to me and in the transfer it opened and she got out and promptly fell to the bottom of the hive, where she skittered under the frames and high tailed to the back of the hive.  

Like any sane queen would do if threatened with imminent kidnapping.  

Not that I'm anthropomorphizing or anything.

So we had to search through the frames again to find her.   And we did, on the very last frame in the box, sort of festooning with the other bees.    And we got her again and this time were very careful to keep the blasted thing shut tight. 

And we closed things up, and headed to the house, where I was unable to put off her offing any more.

I hemmed and hawed.    Which surprised me a bit, because I've killed my share of bugs, let me tell you.   And moles.   And mice.  And possums.  In cold blood. [OK, not the possum.  It wasn't actually dead.]  I"m thinking I was kind of bonded to this dumb bee. 

I considered my options.

Pinching was definitely out.  

No freaking way.

We considered stepping on her.   Kind of a variation on the pinching theme.    Messy.

One of the guys on the forum said to drop her in a jar of water and then run away.     This appealed to the girly girl in me.    A lot.    Turns out it's really slow though.   You can only do this if you don't mind watching for a while or if, indeed, you run away. 

We also considered hanging.

We considered swords at dawn.

We considered poison.   

We considered arson.

In the end, I opted for the squishing.   But I chose a really nice shoe.  


  1. I'm so sorry you had to kill the queen, but, oh how you made me laugh at the end! I'm glad you had such fancy shoe to use to dispatch the queen! Hope all goes well with the hives!

  2. Wow. I can feel for you. I figure I'll be the same way if I ever need to do that.

    Hilarious post by the way. I especially liked all the different photos of the potential dispatching methods. I think I would have made up a mini guillotine. Only fitting for nobility you know =)

  3. I absolutely loved this post!

    I just had a few colonies that requeened themselves after the loss of a queen, and the new queen is laying excellent patterns the full width of the frames now!

    Let us know how they do with their new queen!

    Show Me The Honey Blog

  4. I can't believe I'm feeling sorry for a bee, but there it is. I'm sorry you had to do that, but I know it was for the good of all the other bees.

  5. Me, too! I hated to do it.

  6. Awesome post! Awesome! You made a dreadful event pretty funny, though not from the bee's point of view, I'm sure. Did you not think about the goldfish method? Flushing?

  7. Heard an interesting comment about "pinching" queens at the Saginaw Beekeepers meeting last night. The comment was that when he pinched his queens he left the dead queen in the hive until his newly ordered queen arrived. This way the bees know that the old queen is gone. Can't say I've heard that before, but perhaps it makes sense.

  8. Wow, I never knew you had to be ruthless in beekeeping. Love the shoe! Will you wear it to the next Teen Book Club? ;)

  9. Your writing takes me right into your home. Keep it up!

  10. This is off topic here, but you mentioned killing moles. What is your method for cornering and then dispatching this critter?

    1. The only times I've killed a mole myself, I happened to see the dirt moving in the hole. Once I waited to see fur, then I dispatched it with my foot. Once I used a shovel. Now we have a dog that goes after them and since she spends all day in the yard watching, she's caught quite a few. Though now we have a bunch of holes in the yard, too. It's a trade-off.

    2. Thanks Robin for the info on dispatching moles. Sincerely enjoy your writings on your adventures with bees. Got some nice tips.


    3. It's nice to meet you, Stan! Bees are never boring. Quite honestly, I'm not a very experienced beekeeper, so I try to share my mistakes since I don't have any 'expertise' to offer.


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