So we went to see the swarm again in their new home to see how they were getting on. We had previously left them with a spare super with a small amount of stores as a emergency feed and left them to settle down after having cut down the comb to fit into a single Langstroth Jumbo brood chamber. The colony had grown considerably since our last visit and seems to be doing well. No chance to really examine the comb as it is so complex and tightly woven around the apple tree branches we trimmed previously.
The real issue was what to do next to ensure the colony makes it through the winter into next spring. It’s getting quite late in the season and they are unlikely to be able to make much more comb, so adding frames of foundation would be pointless even assuming they could find sufficient forage to fill them. I had a number of completely full clean brood frames from Queenless colonies that I had merged previously and assembled into another jumbo brood box. It was incredibly heavy and took two of us to lift onto the hive once we had removed the Queen Excluder.
So with up to 30Kgs of honey and pollen stores, placed just above the brood comb, the colony should do fine and we will keep an eye on them over the winter so that next spring the colony should have moved up en-masse into the top brood chamber with frames full of food. On a suitably warm day, we should also be able to see signs of egg laying at that time on the frames letting us know the Queen is up in the top chamber.
At that point, we will run some cheese-wire between the two brood chambers to separate them, so that we can then remove the bottom box and replace the frames, bees (and hopefully the Queen) back onto the floor before shaking out the bees left behind in the bottom chamber.
Those more experienced will recognise that in fact we are really doing a pseudo Bailey comb change, albeit onto complete combs and should this process should enable us to keep the colony intact whilst moving them off the current chaos of comb and twigs etc.