Forgive me, for I have failed to blog

This post relates to my 3rd visit to the Training Apiary this year, and this is my first time writing it up.  Sorry about that =O}  Simon has been busy here though, I see.  And then, having said that, we had problems with the software used to run this blog, and it’s taken some time to get this entry posted.  Sorry again for the delay.  I’ll try to write up the rest of the events in the Apiary to date as soon as possible.

Back in February, with the weird non-end to Winter and non-start to Spring, I went and fed both hives some candy, to make sure they survived.  As with last year, they will have started getting active as they though Spring was starting, but then found very little forage.  So lots of sugar was given to try to stop them starving.  And I didn’t take a camera with me that time.

The next visit was 2 weeks ago, as part of the first day of on-site training with this year’s new beekeepers in the association.  And as we drove up to the Training Apiary, we saw a swarm up in the top of one of the orchard trees.


It was so high there was nothing we could do about it, so a nuke box was set up beneath it as a bait hive, and we left them to it. Unfortunately, they didn’t take up our offer, so it may have been one of the swarms that have been collected from surrounding gardens over the last 2 weeks, or it may have found a new home elsewhere.

We then worked our way around the hives in the Apiary, and many of them showed signs of preparing to swarm. So we took measures where we could to convince them otherwise. As well as swapping the super and brood boxes back over and putting the queen excluders back in, cleaning out, and looking for the usual signs of brood activity.

One action we took was to take some frames out of my first hive and into a Nuke box as a false swarm, to start a new colony under our control:


We put some new frames in around those, and replaced the frames in the main hive with other new ones. And hoped both new colonies would figure out the changes. Above you see three frames in the middle from the old hive – one of stores, two of brood, and then we added a couple of queen cells from another hive into it:


You can see one laid on top of the frame there.  And inserted in between the frames here:


And so we left the Apiary in hopefully a better state than we arrived, and returned again today to see how they were doing. And again, we all arrived in time to see another swarm, this time a lot lower in an apple tree in the orchard.


So a swarm box was fetched from one of the cars, along with a set of pruning tools, and we cut the branch the swarm was on so that it fell into the box. A sheet was already prepared on the ground, so they then flipped the box onto that, and looking around, pretty much the whole swarm was in the box:


This was later wrapped up and taken to start its new life in a new member’s hive.

Then into the apiary, and inspecting the colonies again. And these colonies seemed strong, with many creating queen cells still, preparing to swarm. Some of which were removed and put in other hives who seemed to be queenless.


Of the work done on my hives last time, the Nuke box appeared to be doing very well. In fact we found a very slim looking new queen, seen here:

queen1 Getting a photo of her in such bright sunlight without her disappearing into any shadow we caste, on a camera phone with only a capacitive touch to take the shot, while wearing leather gauntlets, proved hard, however. But you can see her just on the shadow line middle top, twice the length of the workers around her.

They seemed happy, so we left them to it.

We then looked at the hive which, two weeks earlier, we’d found a hornet in the middle of. This hornet had done a lot of damage. The first 5 frames were stripped bare, with holes cut right through them. As we lifted the forth frame, my youngest daughter said, “This is due to wasp attack, isn’t it, Daddy?” And just as we were discussing how it looked like it with her and the other new members with us, the fifth frame came out with this massive hornet just sat there. We shoot it away, put a block in the hive entrance to stop it getting back in, but leaving just enough room for the bees to get in and out, and continued our inspection. And the rest of the frames had the colony crammed onto them. They seemed remarkably well, considering, with lots of brood in various stages. So we left them to get over the attack, and closed the box again.

This visit, they had started to spread back to the damaged frames, but we also found renewed signs of chalk brood – this is the colony that had to deal with this fungus last year, too.

chalk It’s getting so warm and dry now that they should be able to clean it out themselves, and they seem so strong, we’re pretty sure they’ll manage to do so.

Then we moved on to my main hive. And found no sign of brood or laying in there at all. I’d hoped, given the health of the Nuke, but with no sign of new laying, that the virgin queen was all that was in there, and so we’d left the queen in the main hive, rather than managing to transfer her with the frames we took over. But if she’s there, she’s stopped laying. Possibly in preparation to fly – the hive was very full, the Super seemed about full, so maybe she was preparing to swarm. But I found no new Queen cells, so don’t see how that could be so. So we added a queen cell from another hive, and left with our fingers crossed.

I took a length of comb that I’d cut off the bottom of a frame earlier, and shaped it to hold that in the gap between two frames. Hopefully when we next visit this hive, it will have brood again. We also put a new super of frames of pulled comb that we’d emptied in last year’s harvest, to give them more space for stores.

And then onto the second hive. And again more problems. When Lucy and Elsa checked it out two weeks ago, they said it was fine, but they’d not spent long checking, as it had been a little angry. Opening it this week, it was also somewhat fractious. And there were again no signs of new brood. There were what looked like queen cells with growing queens inside, so it’s very possible that this is where that swarm came from. But then others looking at other hives there said the same of 2-3 others. Again, we could only add a second Super of empty comb, and hope that at the next visit, there would be new brood being laid.

The other hives had all been inspected, queen cells taken from where they weren’t wanted and put where they were, and a swarm captured. A good day’s beekeeping. Thanks Geoff.







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