False Swarms and Varroa

Saturday, mid-day, a group of 13 of us met up at the Training Apiary to go over what 12 of us needed to know in order to pass the Basic Beekeeper’s exam. Simon led. Much of it was spent with Simon’s Hive Of Horrors, various frames for us to look at and decide what had happened. He had one that had wax moth larvae in it – from storage, fortunately, they didn’t get in while that frame was still in a hive. Another was from a hive though, and showed serious damage from wasps, who had eaten through from one side into the backs of the cells on the other. He didn’t have examples of any blights though. Frames found with that get burned immediately. Photographic evidence from the packs we got on the course last year did for them.

After about 45 minutes of that, we moved into the apiary itself to inspect the few hives we have there now. Emily and I and others went to our hive, and we had another look through, to see what had been going on. And we’re now certain our queen left with a swarm. And with good reason. It was 1pm by then, half the bees should have been out foraging, but still the hive was completely full of bees. And yet more queen cells were found – they were preparing to go again, even before a new queen had hatched. So instead of destroying most of the queen cells this time, we took 4 frames from the hive, 2 with brood and queen cells, 2 mostly of stores, and move them to the centre of the Nucleas box I’ve mentioned before. We then swapped in the 4 frames from that back into the brood box. They had foundation in, but would give the hive colony the impression they had loads of room to grow. And we still left a number of queen cells in there. Even though one of the other guys there cut out a corner of our comb that had 2-3 queen cells and a load of drone cells in it. The frames were moved with bees on.

The top super, now the oldest, was full, and very heavy. The super in the middle felt about half full of honey. We need to get them another super soon, but hopefully I’ll be able to collect the new frames and foundation from the shop this Friday, and have the new Supers on top this coming weekend.

So, we have what we hope are two viable colonies now. Our original hive should get a queen hatched soon, and start off again. We’ll leave the brood box a couple of weeks, if we go looking next weekend she may fly off. But we can put another Super on above the queen excluder and avoid that. The Nuke box has hopefully a viable swarm in it, and if so I’ll buy a new hive and move them in. If one or other ends up without a queen, we can re-merge them into the hive. Hopefully we lose the fewest bees this way. If they’d swarmed again and ignore the nuke, we could have lost a lot more.

To get the bees in the nuke familiarised with it, we closed up the entrance, and I went back today to open it. I found when I got there that a few workers seemed to be squeezing out under it:
entrance closedentrance opened
But I’d not lost many… I was visiting on the way to the allotment, and wasn’t suited up, so after removing the card I left the apiary area, and the second photo is taken over the fencing. But they came out in something of a hurry. Hopefully they’re settled in there now.

I heard on leaving the Apiary session on Saturday though that the guy who took my queens might not use them though. While looking them over, he’d found a lot of Verroa in the drone cells. Now, when we were inspecting the hive earlier, we’d found drones with stumpy wings – which is a sign of verroa attack. Since drones stay in their cells longer before eating their way out – they’re bigger – the verroa search them out and prefer to lay in those cells. But we’d also thought that, since these had hatched above the queen excluder – having been laid before we put it below the main Super – they might have damaged them trying to escape. Now we can be be pretty sure that’s wrong, and we still do have a varroa problem. We’d not seen any in our recent inspections, and had hoped our treatments at the end of last year had worked. Certainly, when I check my white varroa board (as mentioned some entries back) the level seemed low. Now we need to check again, and decide whether to treat again, and how. Not being suited up this time, I didn’t put the board back in, but will next weekend, when I put the super on.

So, that’s a couple of simple jobs to do next weekend, even though we wont disturb the main hives. Emily and I need practice nailing frames together anyway, as it’s part of the exam.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.