My main hive continues to be very healthy – I think I’m going to have to put a second Super on next week. The current one was close to filling up on the outer frames already. The above was a brood box frame, lots of laying going on, but no sign of queen cells, despite all the drone cells as in the lower middle here. Below was taken as a peak into the Super – I didn’t want to disturb them too much, they were so busy, but I did take one frame out to see how they were doing. The weather was looking difficult to start with, so I was careful not to leave any hive open too long, and knew I had work that needed to be done, so moved to those hives quickly.
So then I moved on to my second hive, which although it has a far smaller colony in it, was showing signs of wanting to swarm last time. And again this week, while there wasn’t much activity in the super, the bees got very angry at my intrusion. I therefore only looked at half the brood frames, since I was working alone, and found one sealed queen cell on one of those. So they’re definitely planning something.
So I put on the swarm prevention device I bought from Modern Beekeeping last year. As described there, it basically moves the entrance up above the queen excluder, so the workers and drones can move about, but any queens are staying home.
The bottom entrance I completely blocked with that yellow plastic door, that’s usually high enough to let the bees in and out, but keep mice and maybe wasps out. They got a bit confused at first, but started using the new upper door soon enough.
Next week will be interesting. If any new queens hatch, and the old queen can’t leave, there’s going to be a fight. But we should be left with the healthiest queen, and I won’t have lost half the bees from an already weak colony.
Then I moved on to the other plastic hives in the Apiary. Geoff had done the wooden hives earlier in the week, and he and Simon had been to a husbandry course today, so I was trying to manage on my own for the first time. The main job there was to put a new brood box on hive 9. This is the one that has the beginnings of chalk brood, so by putting a fresh brood box on top, the bees will move up, the new brood will be born and join them, and the workers will build out and start working upstairs. The queen should then start laying there, and we’ll end up with the bottom box empty, so we can take it away and dispose of the diseased comb.
I only did a cursory inspection, as the clouds came over again, but by the time I had it all back together, the sun was back out. So I moved on to quickly inspecting the other two hives, starting with the weakest, Hive 8. And what I found was bad news:
This was fairly old comb, but when we looked here last time, it was clean. Somehow some mould spores had got in and found a home. About 20% of the comb, mostly the lower right hand side of the brood box, has gone green. Simon has always said we should replace comb regularly, 3-4 years apart, but some of the frames in here were marked 2007, so they’ve been left too long, and this has happened.
There were still bees here, and some small amounts of brood on this side of the hive, but we need to act fast, and I’ve already been talking to Geoff and Simon about it. New frames and foundation need to be built and put in here, but I’m not sure what we can do to keep the mould from travelling over with the bees. I need to rely on them for that information.
Having touched all this, I could scorch my hive tool, as I have been doing between each hive so far. But I had no way to clean my gauntlets properly, and didn’t know how this mould travelled, so I didn’t inspect the last hive, number 11. It’s been the healthiest of these for some time, so there’s little change of a problem there. I’m just concerned for hive 8 now.