It started two days ago. It was a beautiful day, sunny and warm with no clouds in the sky and no wind to speak of. About mid-afternoon, all the scouts left the house. Then the Queen and Her Court, along with most of the elder bees who had been gorging on honey all morning as if they thought the house was burning down and they had to save the honey, they all congregated at the front porch. The next thing you know, they're gone, with the Queen right in the middle of the swarm.
The hive was in chaos for the next few hours. Where had they gone? Would they be coming back? Who was in charge now?
By nightfall, we assumed that the departed bees, along with the Queen, would not be returning. Some brave young bees volunteered to be scouts, and late in the afternoon they left and found our old hive-mates. They were high up in an old tree about 75 yards away. Apparently, the swarm had no plans on returning, as they had already started setting up shop in their new home.
That night, all of us young bees that were left had a meeting in the nursery area. Our numbers had been seriously depleted, but fortunately our food supplies were still good and the crops looked promising. Our biggest problem was that no one was in charge, we had no queen at the time. Luckily, two of the three young princesses were about ready to hatch. The third hadn't developed smartly and was abandoned earlier in the week.
Some of the older nurse bees volunteered to be foragers, to collect food and water which would keep us alive. Others volunteered to stay at home and take care of repairs and upkeep, in other words, construction. Some of the meaner personalities assumed the role of guard bees. Our volunteer scouts from earlier in the day were given the job permanently. The rest of us, the youngest of the young, kept our jobs as nurse bees/housekeepers.
I was naturally disappointed by this, for I longed to be a forager. But, as I was primarily responsible for the care of what could be our new queen, I was told to stay on with her. If she did emerge as the new queen, I would be one member of Her Court, an honor in itself.
We wouldn't have long to wait, fortunately. This morning, both of the young princesses emerged from their cells within minutes of each other. They quickly found one another out. If you know anything about royalty, you know that one house isn't big enough for the egos of two queens. Conflicts are inevitable, and sure enough, the two potential queens had at it right off the bat.
The rest of us bees stayed out of the way as the contestants battled. I was partial towards Brandi, I had practically raised her after all and would be in Her Court if she won, but if she lost I'd have a chance of becoming a forager very soon.
After a nearly fatal blow by the opponent, which Brandi deftly evaded using her still tender wings, I knew that the foraging job could wait. I cared for Brandi too deeply and feared for her safety. Those of us in her potential court cheered even more enthusiastically, and I prayed that she would quickly finish the battle and win her throne.
A fake to the left, a jab to the right, and the next thing you know, the fight is over. Brandi withdrew her weapon from her dying victim after she delivered the finishing blow. She was no Muhammad Ali, but she could "float like a butterfly" and "sting like a bee."
Those of us in Brandi's Court rushed to her side. She was a bit shaken, fighting for one's life right after emerging into the world can have that effect, but we were quick to comfort her and offer her some food and water.
The young queen had very little time to savor her victory, however. There was much to be done in our chaotic little house in order to return things to normal and ensure our survival. Our Queen had to learn her way around the hive and prepare for a crucial mating flight that would make or break her claim to the throne.
As a member of the Queen's Court, it was my job to feed and care for the queen, as well as orient her to her new home. We also served as a liaison between the queen and the rest of the colony, protected her from outside enemies, and, in general, just helped her however we could.
We anxiously waited on the front porch as Brandi darted through the air. She was on a practice flight, preparing for her big day. Betty, who was currently employed as a house bee, cleaning up house that is, had just come out to dump some garbage.
"How's she looking today, Billie?" she questioned.
"Oh, she's doing just fine. As soon as some nice weather comes along, she'll be ready to mate."
"I hope it's soon. The nursery is getting pretty quiet."
That was true. We'd had no new babies since the old queen left. The nursery was empty, and the nurse bees were getting restless. There were even talks of a strike. Some bees were doubting the new queen's claim to the throne. Things needed to improve quickly.
Just then, Brandi returned from her orientation flight. She looked breathless but excited.
"How'd it go, Your Majesty?" I asked.
"It's just wonderful! I can't wait to meet some of those drones. There was a nice looking bunch hanging out by the oak tree over there. They whistled when I passed, but I just ignored them."
"It won't be long now, Your Highness. I only suggest that you use discretion when choosing a mate. Some of those drones are just no good."
"Yes, yes, I know. Only the fittest and fastest for me. Come now, after all that exercise, I'm quite hungry. Let's go in and get something to eat."
"Very well. You there, bring the queen some honey. And you, fetch some water."