It would seem that no two beekeepers do anything in exactly the same way – but its all much the same principle. And there’s nothing like seeing the reality rather than reading the theory. One of the very best ways to learn is if you are lucky enough to spend some time watching and helping an experienced beekeeper.
I was lucky enough this week to be asked to help out preparing some more Apideas. Already I felt a bit more useful as I now know what the process is and so could anticipate how I could help. We made up five Apideas – one of which was mine. I hadn’t included quite enough fondant, but I think there is enough for now. I hope I can carefully add some thick syrup later on. I am spraying a little water on the ventilation grid every day and after about three days, when they are all settled, I will put them outside and open up the entrance. I will then restrain myself and not have a look for at least two weeks… Here it is nestled in the shed. I love the sound of them all buzzing away together.
I also had my first experience watching a queen introduction. This particular queen is not laying well and the hive could be doing a lot better, so a new one makes a lot of sense. The new queens arrived in the post in a DL envelope – it even says ‘live bees’ on the outside. Its fantastic. We are so wrapped up in red tape in this country but there are some surprising little things that are allowed and just make you smile.Having found and killed the incumbent queen, the queen cage, containing the new queen and her five mates, was slotted at 90º between two frames at the centre of the brood. By the time the bees have eaten through the fondant plug the others should have got used to her and hopefully accept her happily into the colony. Fingers crossed!Tip for the day: there’s nothing quite like practical experience to broaden your knowledge base.
G asked me if I would give him some help at one of his other apiaries – a really peaceful and beautiful woodland spot. Fortunately, and unusually for this summer, it wasn’t raining. There were a couple of queen-less hives with several sealed queen cells that needed to be removed (obviously leaving one in situ).
The first hive was fairly straightforward, with two good strong cells. G removed one.
But the second hive didn’t go quite to plan as there were eggs – and lots of them. For some reason she has stayed, despite the fact that there were at least three good sealed cells. So we found her and put her in a cage and cut out two of the cells. We left her in her cage on top of the crown board, under the roof as G was going to go back the following day and make up a nuc. They will look after her.
The cells had to be carefully cut out with plenty of extra wax so that each could be positioned easily and securely in the Apidea. Then bees had to be collected (three cupfuls – one for each) in a bowl which had been lightly sprayed with water, and after the bees were put in there, lightly sprayed again to stop them flying off. I was a bit concerned that I had made them a bit too wet – but they seemed to be OK.
Each Apidea was prepared with three small strips of wax, and some fondant. The air vent had to be open and the small doorway closed. It was then opened from the bottom and a cup of bees ‘woodshed’ in and then closed up. Then the queen cell was carefully placed in the top of the box and then it was closed. These will be put in the dark for a few days to establish and for the queen to emerge. It will be necessary to give them a daily light spray of water through the ventilation holes. The door apertures will then be opened so that she can go on her mating flight… Lets hope it all goes to plan.
Back to my bees – the swarm I collected did turn out to be queen less. But, as I said, its all good experience. Liz and her ladies seem to be expanding steadily but not as quickly as Guinevere did at this time last year. I can’t imagine that the weather is helping – but even despite that they are a bit slow. I haven’t done the actual nosema test yet, but I have given them a few drops of tea tree oil in some sugar syrup. I will also spray them with Nosevit this week.
I find all the advice regarding nosema hugely frustrating. As there are no treatments, the cure for nosema is preventative – good apiary hygiene and maintaining good strong colonies. But if you are doing that, as well as you can, and you have nosema – what is the answer?
Queen rearing was a bit of a disaster as the bees did not do as they were supposed. Instead, they just filled in the gaps in the foundation with drone brood. But the idea was exciting… We’ll need to attempt plan B – not sure what that is yet.
22 days on since my last post and all the brood on the shallow frames (in the bottom brood box) has emerged, bar a few drone. I have removed the empty frames and the box and shaken all the bees in together. There are still four frames which haven’t been drawn out at all – but hopefully they will get a bit of a move on now. I will give them another feed tomorrow.
I am little concerned that Nosema could be lurking in this hive too – there are signs of dysentry on the front of the hive, but the frames inside were looking clear. I’ll take a sample of bees next weekend and test them. I find it very tricky collecting 30 bees – but practice makes it easier and I will need to be able to do this for my Basic Beekeeping Assessment (which I have just applied to take). I’ll probably fail on that bit…
But much excitement and sadness in the meantime. I decided the end was nigh and I have emptied the bees out of Guinevere’s nuc – well away from the other hives – and have cleaned it up ready for use again.
A few days ago I was told that there was a swarm that I could have if I collected it. It was in fact the second swarm to arrive on a fence in one week, so it was likely to be a caste or secondary swarm- probably with a virgin queen. It had actually been put into a cardboard box by someone else, and I just had to wrap it and put it in the boot of the car once all the bees had settled down inside. Trouble was that when I got there, there were still quite a few bees lurking on the fence.
I had a bit of difficulty getting them from fence to box – and I was quite glad there was no-one watching as text book it was not!!! But no matter, in the end they were nearly all inside, so I secured it and headed off home. As it was beginning to rain I decided not to ‘walk the bees in’ but just knock them into the prepared nuc. They went in cleanly in one solid ‘lump’. I closed them up and left them for a couple of day to settle. Its wonderful having bees on all the wild flowers my neighbour has in her garden.
But when I went to check them, 48 hours later, they had not drawn out ANY comb at all and were all huddled together between a frame and the wall of the nuc. I’m not even sure that there is a queen in there at all. I only had a quick look. I have consulted G who thinks it might not have been a secondary swarm – possibly just residue from the first one. So I spent an evening collecting a small box of bees.
Lesson from this week: Its all good experience!!