We have been pretty lucky with the weather so far this Spring and, unlike last year, my bees seem to be enjoying life. My original hive is expanding at enormous speed – I am pleased to say – and already has three supers sitting atop.
However, they are producing queen cells at an alarming rate and over Easter it was getting beyond the point of no return – time to make up a nuc. Two frames of brood and two frames of bees shaken in. It is now resting in G’s garden and doing incredibly well. Next weekend – weather permitting – I will transfer it into a hive.
It was very exciting in the apiary this Sunday and I experienced all sorts of bee activity that I hadn’t seen before. One of the hives (not mine) was full of very ripe queen cells – so ripe that they started to emerge. One hatched out in my daughter’s hand and then I found one crawling around mine, it was wonderful experience and I’ve never seen anything like it. But then I rather unceremoniously dropped on the floor when I a bee stung me. Fortunately no damage done and she seemed quite happy. Then while I was checking my hive, a swarm emerged from someone else’s hive. I was standing in a cloud of bees!
I checked my hive carefully – selecting the cell I was going to keep. I went for one at the side of the frame and well protected. I removed all the rest and G cut out another to use in the Apidea I had prepared. This way if anything goes wrong with the new queen I’ll have back up (in theory!). I’ll go back midweek and clear out any more that have appeared. The Apidea is in the shed and on Wednesday I will open the entrance and put it out into the garden.
My new colony is incredibly gentle – and seems to be reasonably happy. I removed one of the manky frames of brood to be replaced by a nice clean new frame of foundation. I don’t like dirty frames and I am looking forward to getting them into a position where all frames are as they should be with correct bee space.
But the worst bit was that there was some wax moth and I removed five horrible larvae. I also saw a bee with withered wing – so I have put a slider in place to do a varroa drop count. It is very disappointing. I don’t seem to have much luck with bought nucs.
The good thing is that I enjoy the challenge and the learning so much – I find it all so interesting and a bit unpredictable. This time last year I was struggling with a dying colony and had just ordered a replacement. This year I am aiming to have two strong colonies by the end of the summer. I already have two colonies and a healthy nuc, but I realise anything could happen before summer ends.
I was ridiculously excited about the thought of looking at my bees again. I was feeling fairly optimistic as I had seen so much pollen being brought into the hive. It seemed very active but last year had been such a dreadful disappointment that I wanted to have a good look before I could relax. This year has had a much more positive start.
I did my first quick inspection on a beautiful warm sunny day in late March. I didn’t see the queen but saw plenty of eggs and young larvae. It all just felt right. I was so relieved. The hive was bursting with bees so I added a super to make some more room.
A week later I did a more thorough inspection – I saw the queen and she is laying well. The hive is very busy and despite the super, there were many bees crowding out above the crown board. Rather alarmingly, I found the beginnings of a queen cell with a larva resting happily in a bowl of royal jelly. There was lots of drone brood and much activity. I need to make sure there is plenty of room so added a second super of drawn comb.
I swapped one of the older and more damaged frames of stores with fresh foundation. I put this at the edge of the brood next to the stores. I am considering doing a shook swarm this year but I can’t decide – the frames were all new last year and I could just replace a third of them. I will probably decide after our local association’s ‘Disease Checking Day’. If there is any sign of nosema I think I will do it.
The other great excitement in my bee life is that I have bought a second colony.
I went with G to collect them from British Honey producers in Steeple Claydon. We had to make a very early start so that the bees weren’t closed up for too long. Driving through the Oxfordshire countryside with mist hanging low in the fields as the sun rose was a real treat. The farm where we collected the bees was in deep countryside and a sparrowhawk flew through the apiary as we were standing there.
Once back, I put the poly nuc on the spot where they would go into the hive later in the week. I chose to transfer them today as it is lovely and warm. The apiary was so peaceful – the pink crab apple is stunning and all the fruit trees are in blossom. I have managed to find a beautiful spot for my bees.
It was all very straightforward moving them across with the exception of some of the frames. They seem to be back-to-front hoffman frames – some of them sitting flat end to flat end and some point to point. I cannot understand why (or even how) they are like that. I’ll get rid of them slowly. The only difficulty was working out how to get all the bees out of the brace comb with which they had filled the feeding compartment. After much smoking and shaking I managed. I am now the proud owner of two colonies of bees in a beautiful corner of south west London – I wonder what this year will bring with it.
Lesson to self: I need to start thinking and working things out for myself. I am very lucky with the support I get from other beekeepers, particularly from G, but I need to be more confident. I also need to move that ugly ladder that ruins all my photos!