In the eastern U.S., most bees for sale, including queens, are raised in the South, usually in Georgia. That's about a day's drive south of where we are. So local beekeepers will often drive to Georgia and bring back a flatbed of bee packages, queens, and so on to sell to northern beekeepers. Or you can mail-order bees from the South but, as one would expect when shipping live animals, especially live animals that sting, through the mail, this is expensive. This means that queens can be ridiculously expensive--around $80 for one freaking bee--unless you luck out and find a beekeeper who has brought back extras. That's how we got our second queen, the one who just died.
Well, Bobby found a beekeeper who is actually raising bees and queens here in Maryland. This is big for two reasons. For one, it is much less expensive to drive a half-hour and buy a queen at some guy's farmstand like you'd buy a box of tomatoes than to go through the rigmarole of shipping a queen from 10+ hours away. Also, it means that we now have bees being bred who have come from colonies that have successfully overwintered, which is a big deal since overwintering colonies is one of the biggest challenges Maryland beekeepers seem to face. Especially after winters like the one we just had.
Because our school director is awesome (and is fascinated by our bees), then she let Bobby go out after his classes were done for the day to pick up the queen, and she let us leave at student dismissal to install her. We put her in about an hour ago. Hopefully, she takes this time. The beekeeper Bobby bought her from seems to think that the couple of hot days we had last week might have done in Queen 2. It was a bad week for introducing a queen, he said. This week is supposed to be cooler, so hopefully we'll have better luck. This group of attendant bees had already started eating their way through the candy plug; I watched them do it on the drive home.
So here is a picture complete with labels (because this is a bad enough picture if you know what you're looking at!) of Queen 3, who will hopefully reign for years to come.
The amazing thing to me is that in that big bee butt are enough eggs to produce millions of honeybees over the next few years.
All hail Queen 3!
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