The Lucky Beekeeper #6

Eldest has gone off for a week, so it was me, youngest and my wife
joined us to see how they were going on this evening.  Sadly, she didn’t
take Eldest’s new suit, just one of the inspection cowls we have, and I
didn’t check what she was wearing on her legs – after having been
gardening all day.  Given how aggressive they’ve been the last few
visits, this was bad of me… =O(

I’d been discussing them with Simon again during the week.  We stood and
queued to buy more frames and foundation together at the Association
shop – for me 10 Deep Langstrum brood frames and foundation for my
Nucleus Box.  This is a small hive to put swarms in and carry around easily.
They take the same size frames as a normal hive, but only 6 of them, so when
you’re ready, you can just move them over and you’re done.  And at that point
I’ll need the other 4 frames anyway, so it’s not wasted. Simon was there for 30
Super frames and foundation, as his 4 hives are now 10 from swarming this
year, and some of them have 2 or even 3 Supers on them now.

Anyway, so Simon suggested one possible reason for their aggression was
the other bees could smell the sugar syrup I’ve been giving them, and
were coming into the hive to steal it.  So my bees were being
defensive.  So this week I’ve just given them water.

But it looks like that’s wrong.  There was plenty of sealed brood in the
comb I checked, but I found no eggs in the four frames I managed to look
at.  As they were very unhappy.  I got stung once in the arm through
my suit (I must stop wearing short sleeves beneath it) but my wife got 6
stings up her legs and had to move well away quite early on =O(  She’s
OK, the stings didn’t stay in long, but where she rubbed she spread the
venom she had.  Not nice.  Youngest was fine, and I kept working a
while, trying to figure it out, with a swarm of very buzzy bees all
around me, having a go.

So I put it back together and gave them the water and sealed it up
again.  And walked away, still surrounded by bees.  I’d as usual had
trouble with my smoker, and I’m pretty sure I’d over filled it, having
watched Neil Gaiman’s video tutorial on doing it right at:

So I took out the old sugar bag I’d tried to use and left it on a log by
the car when I was lighting it.  And it worked quite well this time.
But in our hurry to get in the car without being stung and get home, I
left it there.  And I don’t want to annoy Lisa and Mark, who own the
land, so having dropped the ladies off, I drove back to collect it.
Simon arrived as I did, and as I turned to talk to him, I saw a bee dive
at full pelt right at my forehead, and felt the sting.  I’d of course
returned unsuited, as I wasn’t planning to approach the hive.  And I
got two or three others in my hair, not stinging, but annoyed.  So I
warned Simon to be careful, and explained what I’d seen, and we plan to
re-queen it from his breeding attempts as soon as possible.  Simon was
only there to put another Super on one of his, so I left to get whatever
I smelled of away from him.

As I think I’ve said before, swarms are the old queen deciding the
current home is too full, and leaving with half the colony.  She mates
with the drones, and then goes off to find a new place for her colony.
And this one, or at least her scouts, found my hive.  Fine, but she was
clearly quite old, and seems now to have stopped laying, if she hasn’t
actually died.  It’s possible there’s a queen cell in there, if the
workers have been paying attention, but I’ve not had the chance to look
properly.  We’ll have a better look when I’m not worried about those
around me, and add a queen from elsewhere if necessary.  There are
larvae there, so the workers could make a new queen themselves.  I
hope they do.  The Super I put on last week had bees in it, but
absolutely no building work has been started there.  That’s very, very
odd, and points to a lack of a queen, too.

So, all home now, more stings among us than all previous visits put
together.  No ill affects – none of us are allergic to them.  We’ll be
back next Sunday, and hopefully we can check the frames counting from the other side and see if we have a new queen cell or two.  If not, I’ll be getting one
off Simon as soon as possible.

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