Last week I didn’t bother with an Update, as I didn’t visit the bees. The Trainee Beekeepers did a session there, and looked them over, and Simon reported back that little seemed to have changed – we only had the queen in the Nuc we put the swarm from under the hive into. It was a small colony, but she seemed active. The shop was still seemingly without frames, too. I’ve also been away some of the week, but returned home with the bees on my mind.
So we approached them this weekend with a few ideas what to do, depending on what we found. I also had my new hive ready, in case we could use it. I’d bothered Simon Thursday night about little else that what we could do, and if he had time to help.
Looking through the hives, we also caught a magical moment – a couple of new bees were cutting their way out of their sealed comb. I didn’t quite get the camera out in time, but on the right above, about or below centre, you can see where Geoff helped to open the seal, and a new, lighter and fluffier little worker is walking on the comb for the first time.
Geoff and Simon were there to make sure we had five “queen-right” hives ready for the Basic Bee-Keeper Exam being taken on Sunday. Emily and I have decided to take ours after her A levels finish at the end of June, but as ever we learned loads just being in the apiary with Geoff. For instance, though I thought he was kidding me at first, he can tell whether a hive has a happy queen just by tapping the side of the hive and listening. A short “Buzzzzzzzzz” in response, and there’s a queen in there. A longer, angrier “BuZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzz” and not so much.
The good news was that we found my Nuc, which we’d false swarmed from my hive to, did now have a laying queen in it. And they’d done a lot of work on their frames. So we decided to move them into my second hive, and let them get on with it.
We had some spare deep frames, so they’re pretty much set. No Super or end board yet, but we’re going to the shop this Friday, and have our fingers crossed. For the other two boxes, Geoff and Simon decided on transferring the queen from the Nuc into the hive, to take that over. You can’t just move her in, she’ll want to go home, and the bees in the hive wont accept her. But Geoff had a queen cage with him, and I’d brought the candy I’d picked up at the BBKA Show, so he set to work while I took photos.
He trapped her into the cage, and filled the end with candy. The idea is that the queen eats her way out, and the workers eat their way in, and by the time they meet, they’ve got used to each other.
Above left you can just about see her in the cage, and the candy is stuffed in on the right. You can also see that Geoff, being a Legend, does his work bare-handed. He had a bit of a problem doing all this, as the work we were doing annoyed the bees more than normal, and he had a few climbing up the inside of his sleeves. He ended up stung three times, I think. The bee caught hovering by his hand on the left seemed OK though. But he just moves deliberately and calmly, and the bees just leave him alone.
On the right, in the middle, you can see the cage hung on a match stick between two frames. We had to remove my end board to allow for this. But by the time we return next week, she should be happy in her new home. We also left the supers in place. The top one is full, and Simon has some full ones too, so a Harvest is due soon. The other one on the main hive is about half full or more now. But they’ve been putting stores in the brood box, since they’ve had to queen laying. That should change now.
So here are my original hive on the right, with the Nuc we put the swarm from underneath next to it. On the left is the Training Apiary’s Warre Hive, which is a top bar number with side viewing windows covered by those wooden slats. The Nuc now has no queen, but it has had her laying in it for weeks, and there are lots of brood and eggs in there, for the number of frames. We hope now that her small colony will take a few of those eggs, build queen cells, and bring these eggs on to take over as a new queen. The first one out will call the others, they’ll call back, and she’ll go around killing them. Not an easy life, being a queen bee. We’ll keep an eye on them to see, and if they manage it, we’ll have a new colony for someone. If not, we’ll have lost a lot fewer bees than we would have with the main hive. We now think it possible the swarm came from the hive, anyway.
And worst case for the original hive, if that queen doesn’t settle in, we’ll move a frame of eggs from elsewhere in, and hope they can make a queen from one of them. Both the frames Simon took from my hive have led to those hives now having queens, it seems, so we could move the frame back with eggs in from those queens that came from my hive anyway if we need to.
And here’s Simon putting the finishing touches to my new hive, and affixing the Apiary Number to the stand. The white line above his hands is the Verroa board, to see what drop-rate we get from them. I’ve not treated either yet, as we haven’t removed the super of honey yet, but we’ll do that soon. The stuff I bought from Modern BeeKeeping is said to be useable at any time of year, but I’m not happy to do it just before we harvest,
My Nuc returned with Simon, containing a broken Jumbo frame, mostly containing stores, and another with his queen rearing box in, for him to clear out and fix, ready to return to a hive later. We spent a fair amount of time after we left the hives waiting for the bees to leave them and us alone before we got everything into the car and returned home.
Next week, we try to buy and build frames, harvest honey, and make sure the colonies are doing well. But I now have two active hives, I hope, plus a Nuc with another colony we may be able to pass on. I have a Super of honey, maybe more, and Emily and I learned loads this week, just by being there to help and watch. Thanks to Simon and Geoff for that.