Meeting 19th May

The chilly easterly subsided and hives were opened! Having prepared both icing sugar and smoker it was wonderful to find that the bees were well tempered and all that was needed was gentle handling. 

I moved a colony from a national hive into my first top-bar on the 31st of April and had left well alone. I  was looking forward to seeing what was going on but opening hives for general inspection by others is a bit worrying…. will I be found wanting in the beekeeping department? I kept fretting. The reality was less terrifying and although the bees had stayed largely on their national frames, they had also built one beautiful comb on the bars I had paid good money for them to use. The trick now ( I am told and please correct me if I have been a bit slow here), will be to slip top bars in at the entrance end of the hive thereby slowly pushing the national bars out, eventually to be removed when a good amount of natural comb has been created. This may take as long as one year. Gareth advised feeding the colony as it is still on the small side; presumably having endured the move, the Siberian winds and the recent drought- relief deluge has slowed things down somewhat. Yesterday, cackling over my cauldron, I made a brew of nettles and sugar and have put this in the feeder. I expect great things….
Moving on to the national hives; the occupants of the pretty, painted hive are doing fine and have a laying queen and all essential requisites to make the most of the coming week of good weather. The next hive along was found ailing and yesterday Oliver and I changed most of the brood frames and delivered some of the “brew” in the hope that we can build up the colony as it recovers from a bout of dysentery.
The last hive, already supered and strong, delivered uncapped queen cells. For some reason I have struggled with the various information about swarm”control” as the issue of finding the queen puzzled me- unlike in the books she is usually elusive.  I have sat with illustrations and tried to work out why this or that happens so it was great to actually split a colony under Gareth’s guidance. The original hive was moved a few feet to the left and without knowing where the queen was (although 99% certainly in this hive) two frames of brood (no queen cells) and household bees were put into a five frame nuc box, on the original site with a frame of stores and a feeder (we added “brew” and another undrawn frame yesterday). The idea is that the flying bees will return to the nuc and sensing the absence of a queen, will build emergency queen cells. These cells should be in the centre of the comb and to this end Gareth tore the built comb, breaking the silk that binds the substance, thereby easing the job of constructing long, downward hanging cells. Meanwhile, the “mother” colony will think it has swarmed and hopefully abandon or tear down the queen cells. So far so good; both the original and the nuc are very busy so watch this space………..
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2 Responses to Meeting 19th May

  1. Paul says:

    It was a very successful meeting: everyone learnt lots, it was very reassuring to meet fellow travellers on this relatively rare path, and the hospitality was very slick! Don’t know how you kept your bees so incredibly calm even at the end of an hour or more’s messing about: the smoker was left abandoned in the grass.

    There are few rules about how to find queens. In general if they are on a comb you pull up into the light, they will scurry to the shadowed side ASAP. Apart from that… some colonies have very active bees who move a lot; sometimes you can spot an area of stillness around the relatively slow moving queen. Vice versa, calm bees can have queens who move rapidly. It gets difficult if both queen & colony have similar behaviour! Also, queens seem to be either yellow or black, and we had one which was originally smallish and blackish – looking very like the other bees – but over a few months bulked up and turned more yellow, making her much easier to spot.


  2. simplebees says:

    Finding queens is an overrated pastime and can disturb a colony unnecessarily. Hence my preference, if one is making a split, to do it without attempting to find the queen. I find these days that I actually never need to see a queen; that means they can remain unmarked and unmolested.

    The split described above contained a mix of nurse bees and flying bees; the nurse bees to raise a queen and the flying bees to bring in pollen and nectar for the little colony. As Sue says, the likelihood is that the queen is in the parent colony, but it is not critical either way.

    Also, the idea of breaking down some of the old cell walls is to expose eggs and very young larvae in a manner that allows the building of vertical queen cells around them, rather than forcing the bees to ‘float’ a larva to the top of a cell – the latter often being referred to as ’emergency’ queen cells.



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