Ruby, Queen of Shard Hive
Ruby, Queen of Shard Hive

What’s in a name ? I didn’t get it when my wife suggested that I give the new Queen in Shard Hive a name: “She’s already got one,” I replied cheerily: “It’s JC1.0.O.4.13.NZ”.

She responded with a smile and a gentle, but devastating, shake of her head. Wrong answer! I’m notoriously bad at names and I had to concede that she was right. “JC1.0.O.4.13.NZ” was just not going to cut it, if her Majesty was ever going to get on first-name terms with the discerning audience of Apis.

But look at it from my point of view: the name JC1.0.O.4.13.NZ contains all the genealogical information required to make good breeding decisions for the Bermondsey Street Bees (it is a combination of these data points: Supplier/Breeder’s initials and my own serial number. Generation In Apiary. Bred in Local / Out Apiary. Month. Year. Origin of Breeding Line). A record of the genealogy and the performance of a Queen bee is vital for future breeding decisions and a thriving, healthy, productive and good-tempered hive of bees.

As an urban stockman, I select the breeding lines for my Queens,aiming to optimise docility, yield and disease resistance. It is crucial that I can be confident in the genetic make-up of my home-grown virgin Queens, since the 20 or so drones (male bees) whose sperm she will absorb on her single mating flight are beyond my beekeeping control. From that point of view, my role as a beekeeper is like a sous-chef who prepares a well-seasoned stock – and then hands it on to twenty chefs to each add their own ingredients and stir the genetic soup. I can only hope that the selective breeding lines in my newly-hatched Queens are strong enough to disprove the old adage that “too many chefs spoil the broth”.

The other problem with naming the new Queen was that, since the Romans coined the Latin word “regina”, all the good names for Queens seem to be taken. For example, Elizabeth has historically been a pretty good name for Queens around these parts, but we still have one of those enthroned – and she shows no signs at all of being superceded!

But then I looked at the pictures I’d taken of Shard’s new Queen (see above) and it hit me in a ruddy flash! Queen bees hatched in 2013 will be marked red (beekeepers can see them more easily in a crowded hive and also identify their age). So here goes, in deference to this year’s Queen marking colour: Farewell, JC1.0.O.4.13.NZ – All Hail, Ruby, Queen of Shard Hive!

7 Replies to “Coronation”

  1. The royal ‘we’ agree with the wife and her salient looks that were nodded in your direction, after-all, even dogs have pet names aside from their pedigree given ones. We also think that you have set a precedent for naming your Queens after gemstones each time you introduce a new marking colour . . . precious gemstones will give you four before you rotate back to the first, in which case we have Ruby I, Queen of Shard Hive.

    By the by, we are getting great enjoyment from your blog which has introduced us to your bee world and your amusing personal asides on it.

    1. Good point Jane, so do we think the next Queens might be……..Jade, Sapphire, Diamond and Topaz (or Citrine) perhaps?

        1. Hi Nikki, I think that Jade is just right for Bermondsey! I like your riff on Jane’s gemstone motif…”Will You Rear Good Bees” = mnemonic for Queen Bee colours by successive years….White, Yellow, Red, Green, Blue.

          Having been put in touch with my feminine side, I can promise you that we will be using gemstone names for Bermondsey Street Bees’ Queens titles from now on (with sub-titles in bee-genealogy-speak!)

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