I got my hive and most of the frames last week. Due to the huge increase in beekeepers this year, the beekeeper suppliers are running out of everything, but I had my beebox hive painted, and the brood box frames built and in place, and the whole thing on a recycled pallet stand by Sunday. But it and the car wouldn’t go into the garage together, so I moved it down the side of the house for the week, expecting to move it to where it will live, and to have to buy £150 worth of colony for next week to put in it.
Then I went out yesterday, and it had quite the crowd of little honey bees paying it some attention. The foundation you put in the frames is processed bees wax, and smells of honey, so I guessed they were just foraging, and watched them for a while. But nothing much came of it.
And then today. It was a bit busy again, but under a hundred of them – small change in bee colony numbers. Until about 1pm, when my nearest neighbour rang to say she wasn’t going to come knock on my door to tell me – look outside. And indeed outside my kitchen window the sky had gone quite grey. Some of those bees had been scouts for a swarm, and they’d brought the rest over. The hive was of course a perfect new home for them, and they moved in.
Most of them were in by this point. Another neighbour came out to take this picture. A good few thousand bees all checking it out at once. Friendly bunch.
The hive is the dark green, polystyrene set of boxes to the bottom right. Scan back through the pictures to see it being built and painted.
So this evening I got my mate Simon over – he ran the course. We separated the hive from the stand, strapped it together tightly, jammed the entrance full of foam rubber, and put it in the boot of the car, with the stand. We drove to where it’s supposed to live, suited up (no photos of me in the CSI Bee suit available on purpose) and moved it into place. We then removed the top two Super boxes, where the queen isn’t allowed, so you just get honey. There were no frames in there, due to shortages of stock, and the bees were already building wax down from the roof to fill the space. I have a 2cm cubed block of it here to play with.
The problem is the queen can’t get through the excluder to that bit, but the workers will start from the top and work down – so she’d starve =O( Without the two top boxes, all the work will now go on in the main brood box, which is now set up and will be left for a few days for them to settle:
I’ll need to add a feeder level on top to allow them to build lots of wax to get the hive ready for eggs next week. I just put the order in for one from Modern Beekeeping, as I didn’t expect to need one until the autumn, as a bought colony would have comb built on frames already. But I’ve saved about £120 doing it this way.
Because there’s so much pollen out at once right now, most colonies are growing like crazy so they can gather it. And so they’re out-growing their hives, and the Queen is creating new queens, and then leaving with half the colony. All the beekeepers I know are having swarms, and moving them to new hives as best they can. Simon’s 4 hives are now 7, but this swarm wasn’t from him, and we don’t know many others it could be from close enough. It could be feral, but they’re very rare these days. Finders keepers with swarms though.
The point though is that I’ve just had bees turn up from nowhere and settle in, with no real effort from me. It’s very hard for them to find proper homes these days, so they could have just died, if they weren’t spotted and collected by my colleagues. I’ve now idea of their lineage or their temperament, so we’ll probably replace the queen (the older queen leaves, so she’s probably not got much life left in her anyway). *If* the queen’s in the hive, we’ve not been able to check yet. If not, we’ll need to merge it with another, of find a queen elsewhere soon. The hive can’t grow without a laying queen.
It’s all getting quite exciting. =O)
The only downside was that after we’d moved away, and I’d put the super boxes in the car, we de-suited, and then I lifted the boxes into the car. And there were still bees in them, and one of them stung me on the side of the neck. I’m not allergic, and I think I stopped it putting much sting in, so it didn’t hurt much. But that’s me lost my cherry at last. =O}