I’d like to ask about a sentence in "His Last Bow" by Arthur Conan Doyle.

Practical Handbook of Bee Culture, with Some Observations upon the Segregation of the Queen.

I’d like to make sure what this “the Segregation of the Queen” above exactly means, more specifically, whether it is what is called a spontaneous colony fission or some artificial arranging. I heard the queen of a bee colony leave the colony with some worker bees when the time comes to start a new colony, in that way giving place to the new queen from the old home. So is this “the segregation..” is referring to such natural, spontaneous phenomenon in the ecology of the insect? Or I also heard in beekeeping, they separate the queen bee from the rest in a tiny box for some time until they (bee farmers).. I don’t know the beehive is somehow ready before letting the bees to start a colony. Is this “the segregation” such artificial arrangement?

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    If you're asking about the ecology of bees and what happens to the queen in a colony, that question might be better off on Pets SE (where bees apparently can be considered on-topic). But it seems like you already know the possibilities for what can happen to queen bees and you're asking which one is meant in this work of literature?
    – Rand al'Thor
    Oct 16, 2020 at 14:31
  • Thanks for the comment. Yes, in this context. I thought if it is a handbook (a guide) for beekeeping, it has to involve some artificial element rather than just recording observations on how bee works in natural setting. So I thought beekeepers might artificially separate (segregate) the queen for reasons unknown to me, to make ideal beehives and Holme's got well-versed in that kind of technique or some. I don't know.
    – giraffe
    Oct 16, 2020 at 15:01
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    Holmes comments in the story that he 'keeps bees', so I think it fair to assume that by 'Bee Culture' he means 'Bee Husbandry' and hence the observations will be about how and when to segregate the Queen to best further the aims of the Bee Keeper in good husbandry of their hives.
    – Spagirl
    Oct 16, 2020 at 16:07
  • Yeah I would assume so too. Thanks Spagirl.
    – giraffe
    Oct 16, 2020 at 16:46

1 Answer 1


It is practice in modern-day beekeeping to have part of your hive separated by a gap that is large enough for the worker bees to get through but too small for the queen (a queen excluder). This ensures that the queen only lays eggs in part of the hive (the brood box), and you can freely harvest the rest for honey. This was invented by the Rev. Lorenzo Langstroth, in 1852.

A bee-keeper will certainly write up the importance of ensuring that the eggs and honey are not intermingled in practical notes on bee-keeping. All the more so in that old-fashioned bee-keeping practices were slow to change.

Its literary effect is to underscore the sincerity of his retirement: writing up how to keep bees, instead of catch criminals as he did in the years when he worked, show how his interest have changed. The segregation of the queen bee is probably to add some local detail that he really does know his stuff.

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