My second hive is now filling with brood. We did have a queen last week after all, but as Simon had suggested in the comments to the last post, she was a virgin queen, and without enough good weather to get out and mate, she was stuck that way. The better weather since then has allowed her out, and she’s now laying nicely. The workers are getting to work building and filling up the comb with forage, and she’s laying more to help.
My main hive seemed quite quiet this week, and indeed Simon thinks it swarmed during the week. There’s a swarm high in a nearby tree, and all of Simon’s other hives swarmed last weekend. The bees left are still working hard, filling both Supers, and laying is taking place in the Brood box, so we have a new queen. All is as it should be, but catching the swarm is going to be hard where they are. We do have a slight problem here – the top Super isn’t sticking together very well, and a crack has opened up in the join of one corner. Damp has got in and we have a little mould on the wood in that corner. I’ll swap out the Super box next week, putting these frames in a newer one, and bring it home to repair it. I’ll then swap it back, as it’s painted the same colour as the rest of this hive, and I’m an obsessive…
So then we moved on to the hives where we’d had problems with chalk brood before. The older one is actually sorting itself out. There was still some small signs of the disease, but the bees are healthy and cleaning it up themselves. The comb is still old and we’ll need to swap it out soon, but right now the queen is laying well.
So we don’t need to do much here, just provide clean foundation at some point in the future. We did make a discovery on the new frames we’d put in to replace the ones that had got badly mouldy though:
The workers have built this one out far enough that the queen is happy to lay in it, and there she is, marked with a white blob, running around laying. We saw a number of eggs in these cells, but I can’t make any out in the picture.
And on to the hive that had a far worse chalk brood in the previous weeks. He we’d put on a second brood box, in order to convince the queen up into the clean brood, so we can take away the bad stuff and leave them in peace to continue in the new foundation. Last week I put an entrance between the two boxes in the hope they’d come in and go up, and leave the box below alone, but that’s not happened. Instead she’s laying in both, and the workers are treating the top brood box as something of a huge Super as well. They’re cleaning out the bottom box too though, so there was little sign of chalk brood left. So we now pretty much have too healthy brood boxes on the go here with one queen. So healthy in fact Simon is going to order a new base and we’ll turn this one big hive into two smaller ones. Whichever ends up without a queen will create a new one, and we’ll have fake swarmed them.
Oddly we’re still seeing some strange building behaviour though. In this case, the foundation from one frame had come loose and touched the foundation on the next frame. And the bees got in and around and worked the two together. Which was no fun working back apart, and in the end we damaged both beyond use, so Simon will need to replace them both.
But all good news other than that. Work to do next week, but it’s all to help them grow as colonies, rather than dealing with real problems. The Summer has arrived and the bees have taken to cleaning up after themselves.