I went to a old school Hampshire reunion. Sue, the hostess, told me that many years ago she and her husband had been at his company's annual dinner and their table had had a bet on the length of the speech. "Forty-five minutes" her husband had said and he duly won the pot of £100. He gave it to his wife saying, "You have it, darling and buy something special." He thought she'd buy clothes but in fact she purchased two bee colonies for £49 each. These have now grown to four colonies.
We put on our protective suits which were rather like astronauts' outfits and went to inspect one of the hives. I had to puff the smoke (see the man holding the smoker on the right of the above photo. Those chaps should be wearing gloves, by the way!) and Sue removed the the top boxes of honey and proceeded to take out the trays of bees as the man on the left is doing. Hundreds of bees were making wax. We saw a few chubby drones wandering amongst the mass of female bees. We were looking for the Queen. Sue had marked her with a green spot and clipped her wings so the bees wouldn't swarm away but instead return to the hive. Angry bees flew towards our faces which were covered in gauze. I puffed the smoke vigorously, almost making us choke. At last we saw her, her black body thinner and longer than the other, rather a sad creature without her wings.