So she didn't arrive, the queen bee, shipped out from Lucy in the UK suitably packaged and with the appropriate documents attached. Noooooooo! What happened was that she fetched up back with Lucy from thence she was put back into a hive with some bee chums. Which was good. At least she stayed alive. However, another package (some bee equipment) took only three days to arrive here from the UK, and that was by normal post. So Lucy, a very helpful apiarist, has offered two alternative ways of getting a queen to us:
1) Put her in an airy travelling box and send her by normal mail to France.
2) Get Lucy's Mum to give her a lift in her handbag when she comes over to France for a holiday. I would then go and fetch her, (the queen, not Lucy's Mum although she would be more than welcome to visit us if she so wished) or she could be put into the French postal system (the queen, not Lucy's Mum!)
Ah so! A couple of days ago, in through the door, with a very glum face, came Hubs. "I'm sorry" he says, "But all the bees are dead. I lifted the lid up (of the hive) and there weren't any inside".
I knew this to be so. So off we went, my intent being to empty the hive of all carcasses and put it away for next year when we would start again with the Bee Project. Meanwhile, our bee keeping equipment had arrived, which at least made me feel optimistic that we would indeed keep the project going forward, but next year.
A few bees were flying about, but the hive is snuggled in beside a large and florally busy patch of blackberry bushes. Visiting bees then. With a flourish Hubs lifted off the roof. Ants there were in abundance. Still in full flourish, Hubs lifted off the top board. No bees to the right. Yikes!!!!!!!! But there were BEES TO THE LEFT!!!! Yessir!!!! BBBBEEEEZZZZZZZ!!!! Strewth, but we never moved so fast to get those bees covered back up again, the shock of seeing bees, real live bees, was too much to cope with especially since we were not in bee keeping gear and were suddenly made to feel very vulnerable being in shorts, t-shirts, and hatless. The bees, meanwhile, remained quiet. We were not attacked, or stung.
And did you know that: a colony of bees can live for quite some time without a queen.
..that male bees are called drones. That all drones do is mate with the queen. They have no stinger so cannot sting although may pretend they are doing so just to give you a fright. They do not do work. To pass the time during the day they all go off and enjoy a 'boy's jolly', this being done at a distance from the hive, them possibly being evicted from the girls in the hive who are busy going about their house duties and who do not want them underfoot. Apparently they all hang out together, the boy-drones..... but I guess they have to enjoy they day because when winter comes they will be thrown out of the hive for good, them being too expensive food-wise for the girls to keep during the cold months, and so they will die.
So we are still queenless, but still have a portion of bees left in the hive. Will have a look later on today to see what they are up to. I will let you know how I get on with doing that. It will be my first time of lifting the frames up. I have a smoker. That is a useful implement for quietening the bees down apparently, should they get feisty. And I have a proper bee keeping jacket complete with veil, so now I can actually see what I am doing - the temporary veil blocked my view so I couldn't even see where I was walking very clearly, let alone get my hands in amongst the bees, clad though they were in latex. (My hands, not the bees!)
.............but we do still have bees, and we might be having a queen sometime soon! The Bee Project is still a goer for this year......