I was just telling my beek friend Karl last weekend that I am horrible at queen spotting. I haven't seen any queens during my inspections in such a long time, I was starting to wonder if I had been doing something wrong.
Well, today, I got such a wonderful surprise audience with Her Majesty Louise! She lingered for quite a while letting me admire her. She still had the slight remnant of paint on her thorax from when she was marked-- most of it has rubbed off.
In the months past, I have seen large drone bees and thought, is that her? It had been so long that I couldn't trust myself to remember how the queen looks. I needn't have worried, because she was unmistakable. She was hauling around such a large abdomen she almost looked like a centipede or something!
The other cool thing that happened was that last week I had given Louise's hive some foundationless frames with just a line of beeswax painted along the top edge as a starting guide. They were loving making their own freeform comb and filling those empty frames up so quick! It's like jazz improvisation instead of sheet music. Here's a photo of the difference between the types of frames-- click it to enlarge. The white plastic foundation is coated with a thin layer of wax to get them started, but they really seem to prefer the improv version and are working on those first. Nature abhors a vacuum.
I also inspected the new Queen Leia's hive this morning, and she is still going strong, laying like crazy, lots of new baby bees hatching out. I hoped to spot her too and have a double-queen day, but she was successfully hiding from me. Also, Leia will be a little harder to see right now because she is young, and it takes a while for their abdomens to grow as large as Louise's.
We are very fortunate to have no pest activity going on, as far as I can tell. I see one or two small hive beetles (SHB) in Leia's hive, and that is extremely normal and manageable-- and I see NO hive beetles whatsoever in Louise's. She has such a strong hive that the girls successfully chase them away and fight them off. I do credit having a big patch of outdoor carpeting under the hive stand for some of this success-- I have to believe that helps keep lots of bugs away from the general vicinity. Next week or so I will dust the bees with powdered sugar to test for varroa mites. I will explain that later and take some photos. (I am avoiding taking photos during inspections because that's when I usually get stung. I will figure out some way to do better with that.)
It's a happy bee day!