Pulling a “Marie Antoinette”


To the left, you have Gertrudabelle hive. I got her last year and she has been a good and faithful hive. I have learned many things from Gertrudabelle. She has taught me that bees will survive with less than 100 pounds of honey through a winter with only one box, even if it snows for 3 weeks solid. She has taught me that when you put a queen excluder on your honey box, to check that the queen is where you want her, or she’ll lay in your honey super. She also taught me that taking frames of honey and then leaving them out over night in the open inspires spontaneous piracy.

To the right, we have Wilheimina hive. Wilheimina has been doomed from the get go. We picked her up in Victoria, and we picked her up on a very hot day. She was in a nuc box that did not have very good ventilation and the ferry workers missed the memo to put us in the shade since we were carrying “livestock” on the ferry. When I got her home, I tipped the box upside down to dump the bees out and all that fell out was a pile of dead bees. It was like shaking a honeybee holocaust out of a box. It was heartbreaking. I still have a mass grave behind the mint plant. Because of this genocide, the hive has been weak from the beginning. Weak = Wilheimina.

I have been eyeing their progress closely and trying to feed them lots of sugar syrup to build them up. Alas, they would not have survived the winter. So today I did the inevitable. I’ve been putting it off and putting it off. It could not be delayed any longer. I had to do the regretable. I had to pull a “Marie Antoinette.”

I finished my bee rounds, checking on all the hives first. I delayed and procrastinated. Finally, I went down to the hive, armed with my hive tool. I found Wilheimina, who was aptly minding her own business, laying eggs, being fed, being groomed by her attendance. I scooped her out of the hive, and crushed her head on the wooden pallet beside the hive.


Now there is a Wilheimina-shaped hole in the universe.

The Wilheimina hive was almagamated into the Cleopatra hive at the Community Garden. This will significantly increase the chances of winter survival for both hives. It was regretable that the queen had to be sacrificed but necessary for bee survival.

So, for the greater good, Wilheimina paid the ultimate price. I’ve never felt so sad about the death of a bug.

About Amanda

Living a simple quiet life on the Gulf Islands, BC.

7 Thoughts on “Pulling a “Marie Antoinette”

  1. Oh Amanda, that is terrible. Does this mean you have to start from the beginning again? Or is nothing salvagable?

  2. So sorry to hear about Wilheimina. Evidenty, there are harder choices in the bee-keeping world than I imagined. I admire your courage.

  3. OK, so maybe I need to brush up on my history, but wasn’t Marie Antoinette the one who said let them eat cake?
    I couldn’t figure out how you were going to feed your bees cake…

  4. Danielle Seguin on 15 September, 2009 at 9:33 am said:

    Now they can have a fresh start. It was a hard thing to do but think of how many little bee lives Wilheimina saved from dying a cold death this winter by giving her own life. Like Marie Antoinette she would have taken her sentence with her little bee head held high. I’m sorry that it was hard for you.

  5. Wow…we keep bees and have never had to do that before. What a sad, sad thing…I hope all survive the winter and you have happy healthy colonies next year! Kim

  6. Great story. I guess the terrible deed had to be done.

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