March inspection of Helen-hive

20 March 2015 – Inspection of my “Helen-hives”

The aim of the inspection today was to add bars between the brood and the honey to deter swarming. Paul said at the last meeting that the swarming instinct kicks in as soon as brood space gets tight. So there may be plenty of room beyond the honeycombs, but not enough in the brood area. So I arranged the hives as follows:

Phacelia (note – I name the colony after the place I collected the swarm – in this case a Phacelia plant on my allotment!)

There were 16 bars in there. Nos 16, 15 and 14 were empty (I’d added two last week). 13 had a small white comb (last year’s). 12 to 8 had capped honey and 9 to 6 had capped brood. I stopped at 6 because it was still quite nippy in the air, and I had got as far as I needed. The combs were beautifully straight (except that 12 and 11 were a bit bulgy honeycombs) and only one slight adhesion low down on 11. (Note here and see photo: my bars have a side ‘craft stick’ at the same angle as the hive side, which works very well as a deterrent to adhesions. You can see other details of the bar and hive modifications in a previous post here.) Temperament was good. I did not light a smoker. We both had our suits and gloves on so no worries about any bees that were a bit buzzy.

I decided to remove (harvest) bar no 10, which was very heavy. I moved the small comb (on 13) to replace 10. I added a fresh bar (no 16) between 6 and 7 and another (from 15) between 7 and 8. So I still left 16 bars, but more space between the brood and honey and between straight combs.

Wolvercote (and in this case, collected from the cemetery at Wolvercote)

This was similar – 16 bars. No 16 was empty. 15 had small white comb. 14, 13, 12 had a lot of set honey – probably ivy – and hardly any bees on them. (To start with I thought there was something wrong as it was so white and lifeless somehow.) 11 to 8 had small amounts of honey, pollen and capped brood. I spotted two or three very yellow bees amongst the other dark ones! I stopped after 8.

I harvested bar 12, replacing it with a new bar, and put bar 16 between 8 and 9, and bar 15 between 10 and 11. The combs were lovely and straight and only small adhesions on 14 and 12.

Temperament was good. I didn’t use a smoker. To remove the combs I lifted them out, brushed the bees off with my goose feather, and took them over to Mike who had a big bag ready, and a second layer for certainty. We brought them home to deal with and are currently trying to work out how to melt the honey without the wax! It felt like about 4 lbs altogether.

Note the angled craft sticks which give stability at the sides so adhesions to the hive walls are reduced.

Note the angled craft sticks which give stability at the sides so adhesions to the hive walls are reduced.

I’m really pleased with how things are going and how straight and well-formed the combs are in my new hives – a huge contrast to the cross-combing in my previous conventional top bar hive. They are now just glued to my angled craft sticks and barely at all to the hive walls or each other.

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