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The Queen Hunt

By Sarah Kocher

I don’t know if you could really call it a treasure hunt, but the prize glistens in the sun nonetheless.

I’m out with amateur beekeeper Scott Flynn on a search for his queen bee; she’s been MIA for days now, and hives without queens are like zombies: scary, with little direction and less staying power.

Needless to say, she’s a queen for a reason.

I’m out with my uncle researching beekeeping, and I have conveniently forgotten that I am afraid of bees until the moment I realize I will be going out to photograph them. My uncle is wearing the bee veil and bee vest. I am wearing jeans.

My consolation is my recent proximity to the smoker. Stuffed with burning pine needles, the smoker is bee Nyquil, and my clothes have effectively been soaked in it on the short walk to the solitary hive.

To bee or not to bee. I’m seriously considering the second option.

Scott opens the hive lid, and a distinct buzzing fills the air, like hundreds of little fighter pilots revving their engines. But that’s the scary part. Scott’s Russian bees are smaller and less aggressive than their Italian cousins, and their sound is worse than their sting.

“I haven’t been able to identify a queen,” Scott says once we’ve remove frame after frame, searching for the hive head. We find promising signs of a new queen hatch, but no little crown-wearers to be found.

We do find treasure of another sort, though: the translucent glisten of a new honeycomb, barely in the early stages of production. It shines in the sunlight as Scott carefully slides the frame into place and re-covers the hive.

About Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley

NEBRASKAland Associate Editor Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley was born in Nha Trang, Vietnam, and moved to the United States with her parents in 1992. She graduated from Bolsa Grande High School in Garden Grove, California, in 2008 and completed her bachelor’s degree at UCLA in 2012. Wheatley was editor-in-chief for her high school newspaper and continued to write in college, freelancing for various publications, the Tiger Woods Foundation and writing for her blog FoodForHunters.com. After graduating college, she moved to Nebraska in early 2013 to join the Commission as Regional Editor at NEBRASKAland Magazine. She then became associate editor in 2015. Wheatley enjoys hiking, camping, horseback riding, hunting, fishing and wild game cooking.

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