Virgin queens, active hives and moths

Due to the odd weather, Simon and I had discussed the problems in the training apiary, but not been able to do anything about it.  So today we initially met at the Newnham apiary, planning to go on to the training apiary when we were done.  And the above is the sight that met us.  All the hives had a mass of bees out front, charging around.  The nuke there already holds a swarm from the hive it’s next to, and first impressions were that the other hives were due to swarm too.

But it was just that the sun had just come back out, and they were queuing to get in and out through the obstructed entrances – set this way to keep mice and predators out.  Note the different colours of pollen on some of the returning bees’ legs.
The other thing you might note is that Simon had yet to switch his Brood and Super boxes back over for the Spring.  And this proved to have been a mistake, as we found as we opened each hive:

They’d built comb inside the feeder frames on top, between the plastic cover and the brood frames beneath, where he’d put bags of candy after Christmas.

Some just had honey in, so we could nick those, but some were brood, like that above, so we pulled a frame out of each Super, once we’d put the Brood Box back on the bottom, and emptied the comb of brood into that hole.  Once the brood have hatched, we can remove the bits of comb and replace the frame.

Other than that, each hive was healthy, well populated, and just busy.  We left them back in order, and went away with a lot of random comb:

So, then to the training apiary.  My main hive was doing fine, I did a quick full inspection, then added a second Super on top, having first “checker boarded” the frames in them – swapping empty and fully frames between the two Supers so that they’d work in both, but not think they were full enough to swarm.  Then onto my second hive, which last week I thought was due to swarm, due to the sealed queen cells I’d seen:

That Wotsit like lump lower-right is now open at the bottom, as was another just like it, and two I think may have been two small to really hold queens.  But they’d hatched, and hadn’t been able to leave.  And there was no brood anywhere in the hive, no activity in the Super, just honey in the outer frames of the Brood box.  So I think this wasn’t a swarm, it was supersedure.  This colony swarmed was from the main hive last year, so the queen here would have been the old one from there.  I think, having discussed it with Simon, that they’ve replaced her, and that we now have a virgin queen in here, waiting for a chance to go on a mating flight, meet fifteen nice, handsome drones, rip off their sexual organs in the act and return to the hive with them.  So glad I’m not a bee.

I’ve therefore reopened the main entrance of this hive, so she can do that.  We’ll see if she’s started to lay next week.

Simon, Elsa and I then approached Hive 8, to see what we could do about that mould.  And lifting off the lid, we could really smell it.  And it had visitors, too:

On the left, we have the Wax Moth, who had been laying in the old wax.  On the right, we have a slug, who had got in and was happily living in a damp corner.  This hive had got *very* poorly-sick.  We also found signs of chalk brood on the floor of the hive.

So we saved 4 frames of brood that showed no sign of any problems, put them in a fresh brood box of otherwise empty frames, and shook the bees off the old frames with no brood into the new box.  The foundation is all fresh, so no mould should be able to find a home, and we’ve removed the wax moth larvae with the mouldy frames.  Hopefully this still quite strong colony will now get on well again.  Simon’s going to put a feeder of syrup on top to help them build out the fresh frames.

We also started to look at Hive 9, to see how well they were moving up away from the chalk brood in the bottom box, to the fresh frames above.  They do look to be moving slowly, but the rain started before we could really check.  We’ll have to look properly next week.  And so, to finish, here’s another picture from the Newnham apiary of comb built in the open area where Simon had left them candy, where we removed the top plastic cheat and turned it over.

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