The Lucky Beekeeper #4

So, we returned to the FreeBees last night.  Both daughters came with this time – Eldest is getting interested, but also wanted to talk to Lisa, who owns the land, about doing a study on her Chickens.  Eldest wants to do her A2 Biology Extended Project on whether food colour is important to them, but our 4 aren’t a big enough test group to make statistical sense.  But Lisa clearly had guests, so will try again tonight.

Anyway, so within a minute of us getting there, Simon turned up.  He was planning to do some work on his hives, but my first job was making room in my hive to finally slide in the last frame I’d not got in there in the beginning.  I’d tried using it with a piece of hardboard in it as an end board, but it was too thin and they build out the next frame too wide.  So I’ve made a set of end boards from a solid piece of thick ply (Simon now has 4 of them) and put foundation in the freed up frame, but that too-wide frame stopped it fitting.  So I’ve been squeezing it harder against the next frame each week, waiting for them to shrink it back – they instinctively make 2 bee height’s gap between each frame so 2 bees can pass each other back to back.  But it was taking too long.  So I took the frame out, took it away from the hive, and took my hive tool to it, trimming down the wax to the right-ish depth.  Very messy, loads of wasted honey (which they’ll find and steal back) but I was then able to get all 10 frames in the box.  But *boy* were all the bees angry then – and not just my hive.

Simon was able to add a Super box to one of his before I annoyed them all, but we decided to leave then, as they all seemed a bit aggressive, because of the smell I’d made.  He desperately needed to put another Super on another of his hives, but the frame shortage (bought on by all the new beekeepers this year) meant he didn’t have any frames for his boxes.  But I did – I made up enough for 2 boxes over the last two weekends.  So I gave him one of my sets, which he’ll replace when he can, before I need them myself.  We’re both off to the Association Shop on Friday, as I need to buy some full sized frames for my Nucleus box, ready for the next swarm I get.

Simon needs more Supers because his colonies are still growing.  He started the year with 4 hives that all got through the Winter all right.  He now has 10, all the extras from his original hives overflowing and swarming for more space.  And 2 more are close to going again.  So much for the death of our bees. =O}  If I don’t have a Super on mine before they finish the 9th frame (half way there yesterday) and do this new 10th one, I’m going to have problems, and could lose half my bees, too.

Simon is also learning to rear Queens.  He’s bought and set up the equipment to get the colony to lay them, but then stop them killing each other, and breeding hives to get them ready once mature, so they can then be placed in our hives to replace our old queens.  Mine will be a few years old, as it’s always the old queen that leaves with a swarm.  And the bees he keeps in the next village South are a lot less aggressive than mine, so having one of the queens from there would calm them down a bit, as her brood takes over the hive.  We’ve been talking about this for a while – the current queen could just die of old age this winter anyway, so swapping her out before they settle in for the cold is a good idea anyway.

I don’t know yet if we’ll actually get a honey harvest this year.  I’d not expected to – they need to keep stocks for the winter – but they’re building so fast it might be safe to take a super load and let them refill it.

So anyway, back tonight to finish feeding them sugar syrup for the week, and put a super in, with a queen excluder sheet in between it and the brood box, and the feeder on top.  Might get some photos this time.

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