The Bees decide: Monarchy or Democracy?

Readers may remember that last month the Arab spring spread to our hive in Northern France. Our bees, spurred on by buzzes on AntennaBook, rose up and overthrew the old Queen. Here’s the post.

For five weeks we’ve watched and waited to see what’ll happen next. Traditional logic says that a hive without a queen will die. The logic being fairly strong as bees have a short lifespan (summer bees: about 6 weeks, drones: (due to a life of inactivity and being waited upon) a bit longer, queens: 3 years) and, without a queen to lay new eggs, the population withers and dies.

Faced with such a situation, the beekeeper has a dilemma. Do they sit back and watch, and hope the workers elect a new queen and everything returns to normal (The French Revolution model) or do they intervene (The 21st century NATO model)?

The problem with intervening is collateral damage. Opening up a hive of twenty thousand bees and taking a look could result in the odd accidental bee squashing and Sod’s law says it’ll be the new queen. The even more pro-active beekeeper will think about regime change. Buy an émigré queen – or put out a call for an eligible princess – with a few followers, open up the hive, and install her as queen.

We’ve considered all these options, opting for the liberal laissez-faire approach of watching from the wings and fretting. And sending telegrams of support to the bee’s workers’ council, wishing them well in their just struggle.

Not to mention a daily vigil outside the hive, looking for signs – a puff of white smoke, an unfurling of a new banner…

Last week, we had our first sign. A large number of drones left the hive. Now, this could have been the Mating Flight of the new queen – think Royal Wedding with more grooms and fewer dresses. Or … it could have been the drones leaving the sinking hive and flying off to seek new employment as gigolos and tango instructors in the bars of Paris.

We hoped for the former. And the signs were pretty good. The bees were their usual placid selves and still bringing in pollen. All the beekeeper books say that a hive without a queen is a sad, angry place. The workers become aggressive and refuse to bring in pollen. Now, this may be royalist propaganda. Oh noes, where is our queen! I will now be feckless, raid the honey stores for mead, and do lots of fighting! Personally, I’m all for the bees moving away from honey production to a more diverse economy if that’s what they want. I’m a benevolent beekeeper.

Yesterday, after a vote at the Security Council, we decided it was time to open the hive and take a look. If we saw eggs, then there was a new queen. If we saw shops and a picket line, the workers’ council was still in control.

We saw eggs. Lots of them.

Yay! Of course, the new queen could be a constitutional monarch, maybe even an elected one. And who knows what the workers council will do when they start buzzing on AntennaBook? We await the future with interest.


Chris Dolley is an English author living in France with a frightening number of animals. More information about his other work can be found on his BVC bookshelf .

Out Now!
Medium Dead – a fun urban fantasy chronicling the crime fighting adventures of Brenda – a reluctant medium – and Brian – a Vigilante Demon with an impish sense of humour. Think Stephanie Plum with magic and a dash of Carl Hiaasen.
What Ho, Automaton! – Wodehouse Steampunk. Follow the adventures of Reggie Worcester, consulting detective, and his gentleman’s personal gentle-automaton, Reeves. It’s set in an alternative 1903 where an augmented Queen Victoria is still on the throne and automata are a common sight below stairs. Humour, Mystery, Aunts and Zeppelins!
French Fried true crime, animals behaving badly and other people’s misfortunes. Imagine A Year in Provence with Miss Marple and Gerald Durrell.

International Kittens of Mystery. If you like a laugh and looking at cute kitten pictures this is the book for you. It’s a glance inside the International Kittens of Mystery – the only organisation on the planet with a plan to deal with a giant ball of wool on a collision course with Earth.

Coming Soon! An Unsafe Pair of Hands

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The Bees decide: Monarchy or Democracy? — 7 Comments

  1. now all someone needs is to put them on another planet and have the human Space Federation worried about whether to help preserve the colony or not

  2. So, does this mean there’s one healthy hive? As opposed to two, smaller ones? I remember you were wondering about a swarm at one point.

    Are you trying for mead, or do you just eat all they will share?

  3. Just the one hive. We were planning on inducing an artificial swarm to create a second hive but the worker’s got wind of it and revolted before we had a chance.

    We’re not planning on making mead. I must admit to not being that impressed with mead – I find it too sweet and sickly.