"Oh, they are probably a bit too warm and have come out to cool off", opined Denis as he drew our attention to a number of bees fanning at the entrance.
"May be they are clustering around the queen. Is she clipped?" someone quipped. No answer, but a good poke around the cluster revealed there was no queen.
When the hive was opened the 'hanging out to keep cool' theory crashed and burned . Look what we found:
If somebody panicked nobody noticed because under Joy's cool stewardship the brood was taken (slightly further than the customary 2 metres) away and a brood box of foundation left in situ. A classic Pagden manoeuvre for swarm control coming up; we were all agog. Now all we had to do was find the queen.....
Half an hour later, after repeated searches of the brood box the queen was still elusive. "Are there eggs?" some old hand enquired.
"Um, er, no..but plenty of 3 day-old larvae".
"Well the queen stops laying for 2 days before they swarm, so she's probably already left", one of the mongers of doom suggested.
"No! Never! There are far too many bees here", we clamoured. But we still couldn't find the queen.
What to do? The flying bees had returned to the original location and the queen may have been with the brood in the new location. With no queen and no queen cells the flying bees were doomed, and with queen cells and a queen the remaining brood might still swarm. It was Dobson's choice.
And in a moment of creative genius Joy came up with a variant on the Pagden method; some frames with brood and queen cells would be moved back to the original location, and at the new location all remaining queen cells would be destroyed. If the queen was present all would be well, and if she wasn't the queenless colony would be reunited with the flying bees at the next apiary meeting.