I started this Blog, titled “The Lucky Beekeeper”, because I just built the hive, and a swarm moved in a few days later, saving me loads of money. So how is it possible to be even luckier? Just have that colony grow so fast you have to spread them out into another hive within the year? No, that was last week. Luckier than that.
How about have that same hive attract yet another swarm, with no effort from us, so that we now have 3 colonies on the go with no effort or money spent? Because that’s what we discovered had happened this weekend.
On Friday evening, my wife and I were walking back from a watering session at the allotments (yes, it rained heavily shortly afterwards, we know) and stopped in to check on the bees. And while noticing that there was very little movement from the Nuke box we populated last week – maybe 1 or 2 in or out a minute – we look from there over at the hive, and realised there was a mass of bees underneath it, hanging between the legs of the stand. The lighting then and when we returned with Simon on Sunday wasn’t good enough to get an effective photo of this, but just imagine one of the arches of the base just full of bees, and the entrance to the hive being very active, too.
We were dressed for the allotments, not the bees, so we didn’t get too close, since the two colonies being so close was causing a lot of activity. And I had no idea what to do, so I contacted Simon, and he looked over it while doing another Training session, and called me back with a plan. And so at 5pm Sunday evening, we convened at the Apiary ready to do some colony surgery. And on dismantling the hive – which we’d not wanted to do due to the new queens in there – we found this on the underneath the base:
They’d joined some of it to the stand, which is why some of the comb is torn in that shot. Here’s the top of the stand, and what we’d seen when looking in on Friday:
Two other points of note: These bees are far more yellow that the others in our or even the other hives in the Apiary as far as we can tell – they arrived as a swarm from elsewhere. And the queen was laying already – even that very white section at the top of the picture had eggs in it. But given how exposed it was, and the changes in weather of late, they weren’t going to do very well there. We needed to move them into a hive, doing as little harm as possible. So I stood back taking photos and let Simon do all the work and take all the blame…
First we transferred the comb into a Nuke box of frames we’d hurriedly made up earlier. I had 4 spares, and Emily needed practice nailing them together for the Basic Beekeepers exam we’re doing in a few months. Simon had a spare Nuke and a few more frames. I wasn’t sure how difficult it would be, but it was just a matter of cutting the comb off so it fell in. The bees will transfer everything into the frames themselves, so our main concern was not hurting too many of them – especially the queen:
Which left us with a big mess at the bottom of the box, which we flattened out and put the last frames back in on top of:
The bees weren’t exactly happy about this treatment, but they weren’t too aggressive, either. Both daughters were there helping, and the only sting of the whole process was sustained by me much later, after we’d taken our suits off. One of them just flew over to the car and jabbed me in the neck.
Anyway, the rest of the process was simpler. We got as many of the bees as we could off the stand, which we removed from the apiary, put a new stand in place (the old one would have been soaked in pheromone from the colony, and they’d just return to it) and rebuilt the original hive again, hopefully just with the proper occupants in place, and without having disturbed the queen. It was very full and heavy, they’ve been busy on the new frames we put into it from the nuke when we created the separate colony last week. And the second super is now more than half full, with capped honey in it. We swapped two full frames from the middle to the sides, and put the outer frames to the middle, to encourage them to fill them evenly. And so the main hive is back together now without its hangers on. And what little inspection we did showed a lot of Drones, none of which had the wing damage we noted last week. I put the verroa board under this time, so we can check for drop rate next week.
The newer Nuke we kept fairly close, as foragers would be returning expecting to pick up the scent. They seemed OK with the new home, and we’ll leave them alone for a couple of weeks before we try to move them into a new hive, which I’ve now ordered. This coming weekend is going to involve a lot of paint, glue and nailing of frames, which I need to collect from the shop on Friday. I also now have all three of my recycled pallet stands back at home, having got the last of the bees off the one I’d been using, and packed it and the other into the car at the end of the session.
And last week’s Nuke? Well, they’re still in there, but seem inactive. The queen may still not have hatched, or may not have mated yet. Or maybe something’s gone wrong. We can always merge them back in later if needs be – keeping the most filled frames, and shaking the bees back into the main hive. Which is why I’ve not bought a third hive. I think two hives are enough for us right now anyway, so if we do have a viable colony, we may well give one away through the association. Watch this bee space.