Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Rehearsing Regicide

I am sad to say, that the gallant little crew of bees that I installed in an observation hive on our screen porch have not thrived there. They raised up some scant replacements for themselves, built a little burr comb, but their queen stopped laying eggs, and she aimlessly wanders over the face of the comb. The workers themselves haven't the heart to replace her as they might otherwise do, in a fulsome colony. And so she must die. And I must kill her.

She must die because I am going to bring the colony to the beeyard tomorrow morning, and join them to the feral colony that has taken up in my unused equipment. I am bringing a friend with me, new to beekeeping, and if all goes as planned, she will have a good introduction to some uncommonly practiced methods.

I have been fretting over what I must do. Kill the queen. I have killed a few workers intentionally, when they have gotten inside my veil. I have accidentally killed bees, too. I feel regret over all of them. Now I must dispatch a queen who was probably not well-mated to begin with - a failing of the breeder - not hers.

Several days ago, I was at my parents' house, working in their garden. They had told me a story earlier about their 87 year-old neighbor who has been lurking around their climbing shrub roses on the parking lot-side of the back fence, toting a pop bottle. They watched him pick something off the roses, place it in the pop bottle and cover the opening with his thumb. He did this over and over. They finally asked him what he was doing - "collecting Japanese Beetles" was the explanation. He abhors them to a degree that he will pick them off the neighbors' roses. They were on the potentilla as well, which makes sense since it too is a member of the family Rosaceae.

So here am I, weeding my parents' garden, and dead-heading the roses - my dad's tea roses, shrub roses and floribundas. I found Japanese Beetles, stacked in sex-mad oblivion, and easy marks, beneath the innocent and virginal pink petals of my father's flowers. I, too, trapped them in a bottle.

But, sensing an opportunity, I placed several on the walkway, and with a spent blossom, crushed them on the pavement. I felt the chitinous crunch as the shells cracked. I imagined it was my queen. Crushing Japanese Beetles is a useful act. Crushing my queen will be merely necessary act, done to rid the world of her unique scent, so the workers attached to her can forget her, and cleave to their new queen. I will have no pleasure from it, and dread the time tomorrow when I must follow through.

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