The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, August 15, 2008

The queen who would be wild

Beekeepers Ernie Huber and Jeff Atwood have provided an update on recent efforts to salvage a hive of bees (“Rare wild beehive found on construction site,” Mosquito, August 1.) The bees were highly valued, because any wild hive that has managed to survive the mite infestations plaguing the region would have genes that could improve the domestic strains. The hive in question was in a hollow tree logged during site clearing operations. Huber tried to lure the queen into a “nucleus” hive he brought, but only worker bees transferred to the portable hive. The fallen tree was in the way of the construction crew and on Wednesday, July 30, another area beekeeper, Jeff Atwood, used a chainsaw to open up the tree and remove the hive.

According to e-mail by Atwood and Huber, Atwood placed the combs that held honey and numbers of bees into a box to take home. He also took home a number of empty combs in a bucket to melt down and reuse the beeswax. Atwood felt he collected about 90% of the remaining hive and up to ten pounds of honey. He writes, “The hive in the tree itself was very small and looked to have been used by others before this colony took up residence. The comb in some parts was very brittle and old, while in other parts it was fresh and pliable.” He searched for the queen for about an hour and half without success before heading home. After he returned home, Atwood was surprised to find the queen walking on a piece of comb in the bucket of scraps. A second surprise followed, when he discovered that she had a white marker tattoo proving her to be an escaped domestic bee.

The origins of the queen remain a mystery, as Huber and Atwood have been in contact with others in the Middlesex County Beekeepers Association and none have admitted to losing a white-daubed queen. However, a beekeeper in Carlisle has had a hive swarm and escape recently, though it had a red-marked queen.

While the white queen may not have been born feral, she is wild now. Within a few days of her capture she and her remaining worker bees swarmed again and have disappeared. ∆

© 2008 The Carlisle Mosquito