Always eager to improve methods of hive assessment, I have now developed the non-invasive queenlessness test method, hereafter known as The Number 6 Method.
Step one: Suit up well. No, really well as in “rubber bands around your pant’s cuffs” well. An extra cap under your veil is also advised.
Step Two: Clear the yard of bystanders.
Step Three: Crank up your riding mower and proceed to cut a swath directly down the front of your hives at normal cutting speed. If the mower hits a stob or cuts off during this procedure be prepared to abandon ship.
Step Four: Do not stop but as you loop away from the hives take a brief glance at the front of the hives. If a hive appears to be swarming out the front entrance console yourself that they aren’t swarming.
Step Five: If this was the hive you suspected of being queenless, the final assessment should present itself almost instantly in the form of a cloud of 50 -100 bees now chasing you and your lawnmower.
Step Six: Feel good about not unduly disturbing the bees with invasive inspections to determine queenlessness. You deserve a pat on the back as you shift into Number 6 on the lawnmower’ s speed control. With any luck they won’t follow you more than 100 yards. Be amazed at how honey bees can stick to your veil like Velcro.
Step Seven: Properly performed, this test should be conducted at the end of your beekeeping day. Returning to the bee yard sooner that 12 hours is not advised.
Embarrassing as it is, the above is based on a true story.