Last year I wrote about how I lost the queen in February, and how I then united that colony with a nuc, headed by a queen that had been raised from that very same hive. It flourished. And the queen turned out to be as gentle and lovely as the previous one and the colony expanded rapidly and provided a large harvest of delicious honey. G and I used this garden colony for queen-rearing again last summer using a Jenter Kit. We raised about ten queens and I successfully took two through the winter in six-frame wooden nucs.
Forward to this year and to my garden hive. I did my first inspection in March (the day we went into lockdown). Its nerve-racking but exciting opening your hive to see how well it has fared over winter, but I really look forward to it, filled with a mixture of excitement and dread at what I might find. But I didn’t need to worry – it was bursting with bees, the queen (2018) was laying well and I had to add a super straightaway to make more room. Later in April, having already added another super, I found charged and sealed queen cells. But fortunately the queen was still there. I don’t know if this is the case, but I have heard that a clipped queen does not leave the hive quite as soon as an unclipped queen. I have certainly found many queens still in residence despite finding sealed cells.Not really a sign of a good beekeeper!
Anyway, I caught her just in time – the queen was still there so I made up a nuc. I left one unsealed cell and carefully cut out a couple of sealed cells to make up two Apideas. I was chancing it a bit as I couldn’t cut out a lot wax around them and it was difficult to secure them properly. But she was such a lovely queen it seemed a pity to waste the opportunity. Everything seemed to be going to plan – the chosen queen cell hatched as expected and I left her alone.
In the meantime I kept an eye on the Apideas – just in case! One of them drew out a little comb and there were many eggs in some of the cells. Laying workers in an Apidea!!! I wasn’t surprised that it failed but it was a bit of a first for me…
The other one was a different story. Surprisingly successful! A laying queen. I united her with the nuc from the original colony but didn’t have a plan for it. I do know that I do not want to increase colony numbers.
But a laying queen was the sign that this should be the case in the hive too. But no!! No sign of a queen at all. I tested it with a frame of eggs and sure enough there were several emergency cells in no time. I don’t know what happened to her. I just assume she didn’t make it back from her mating flight. So, very keen to get this colony back on track before the flow I decided to remove the frame with the chosen queen cell (into another nuc) and then reunite this colony with the other queen, now in the nuc, originally from this hive, and raised in the Apidea.
I used the newspaper method, with the queenless colony at the bottom, then using newspaper and queen excluders either side of the box containing frames from the nuc with my lovely new queen. I went back a few days later and mixed the frames together, taking the opportunity to remove some of the older comb. It was a relief to get the hive to a slightly more manageable size again.
Tall colonies are very bad for backs. This year I have decided not to allow a colony to get too tall. Three supers is enough and this colony only has four because I removed some honey and put it back on for the bees to clean up. One is above the crown board hoping to encourage them to take it down.