If you happen to comply with the standard knowledge, you’ll pinch that intercaste queen instantly and exchange her with a “actual queen.” A fast web seek for intercaste queen yields descriptions like “a ineffective, mutated bee,” “a reject,” “no good in any respect,” and “they haven’t any goal.”
Nothing could possibly be farther from the reality except your backside line is the whole lot. I concede that permitting an intercaste queen to reign can gradual your colony improvement and ding your honey manufacturing. Therefore, the derisive name-calling.
But when studying about honey bees is your purpose, and also you get the chance to observe an intercaste in motion, I say go for it. Once I took the time to observe a tiny intercaste change her colony from practically lifeless to a roiling mass of pollinators, I used to be gobsmacked. I had witnessed a shocking act of perseverance.
What’s an intercaste queen?
In regular queen improvement, the employees select a couple of newly hatched larvae and feed them a weight loss program of royal jelly. This beautiful weight loss program of nothing-but-the-best permits the chosen larvae to turn into absolutely functioning queens able to mate.
However typically issues go drastically mistaken. Among the chosen larvae could not develop correctly. Some could contract ailments or parasites, and a few could also be killed by competing queens. Others could die throughout their mating flight, and a few could get misplaced and never discover their method residence. Any variety of tragedies can befall a queen earlier than she begins the very important enterprise of laying fertilized eggs.
If the whole lot goes mistaken, the colony could discover itself in dire straits. The brood nest should have some larvae however the younger ones are all gone, so there is no such thing as a chance of feeding royal jelly to a newly hatched larvae. So what’s a colony to do?
What occurs is that this: The colony picks the youngest larvae they will discover and start feeding royal jelly. These larvae are sometimes about 4 days previous, which is historic for constructing queens. However, in a last-ditch effort to save lots of the colony, the employees strive.
If the colony is fortunate, a few of these will develop into intercaste queens. They’re known as intercastes as a result of every one is an element employee and half queen. The late begin meant there was merely not sufficient time to lift an everyday queen.
Intercaste queens are often smaller than common queens and have less-pointy abdomens. Though they will appeal to drones and get mated, their pheromones are in all probability much less potent than these of a standard queen
My very own intercaste queen
I knew my top-bar hive was struggling to lift a queen. It appeared to take eternally, however I lastly noticed some eggs. However the brood sample was small, with a few spherical patches on every of two frames. It didn’t look proper, however I used to be relieved that one thing was occurring.
I looked for the queen two or 3 times earlier than I discovered her. She was tiny, a pint-sized mini-queen with a full retinue. When she laid an egg, she backed up right into a cell and fell in. A second later, she struggled to tug herself out of the waxen cylinder, legs and antennae flailing. Then she did it once more. No marvel the brood space was small: climbing out and in was a full-time job.
Any regular beekeeper would have changed her by now, however I used to be fascinated. I checked on her progress each few days. Every time, discovering her was the laborious half, however by looking for her retinue, I may monitor her whereabouts.
A bridge to survival
My mini-queen survived about three weeks. I didn’t see her after that and I don’t know her destiny. I want I had gotten a portrait.
However throughout these weeks, she laid regular, fertilized eggs. And from these eggs, new employees raised new queens—genuine, full-sized, regular queens.
It didn’t take lengthy for one of many new queens to win the throne. Inside a couple of extra weeks, the colony erupted right into a full-size powerhouse.
Not so ineffective in spite of everything
Going again to the descriptions of intercaste queens I discovered on the web, you possibly can see they’re mistaken. There is no such thing as a mutation. They aren’t ineffective. And so they most positively have a goal. They’re completely able to saving an in any other case hopeless colony, particularly one which has no keeper. You’ll be able to consider them as interim queens.
Once I watched the method, I noticed I used to be watching mom nature at its best. Right here was a system that offers an almost lifeless colony an eleventh-hour likelihood to save lots of itself. The intercaste queen is nothing wanting a hero. Her quick life allowed her lineage to hold on by means of time. My colony lives on to this present day, 9 years later.
Watching a miracle
I completely perceive when you don’t have the time or persistence to observe a scenario like this unfold. To maximise yield and revenue, you possibly can’t look ahead to a mini-queen to save lots of the day. However what a studying expertise!
I really feel honored to have witnessed the beautiful choreography of a colony saving itself. I’ll always remember it. And I’ll by no means condone the raft of disparagement tossed at intercaste queens.
The message is obvious: By no means dismiss what you don’t perceive.
Honey Bee Suite