We are now half way through the first week of July and glad to say, the weather seems set fair, at least for the next week or so. Had a quick look at the bees a couple of days ago and pleased to say, things look to be progressing fairly well. Six is still more iritable than I like and I shall be looking to re-queen them at the first opportunity. I don’t want to tempt fate by saying that my Varroa count is negligable but glad to say, it is. Gave them all a dosing of icing sugar anyway. Both the nuc. and the swarm in three are looking good, although I haven’t opened either of them yet. Gave them both a helping of syrup just to help them along.
My efforts raise Queens from hive eight have not been successful, for some reason known only to themselves, the Queen has persistantly ignored my Miller frame despite the bees drawing fresh comb out all along the bottom of the frame. I decided against just putting a frame of brood in the top box deciding instead to switch my efforts to number five which I have now Demaree’d. They are also very strong and are on double brood so would seem to be ideal candidates. If they too, ignore my Miller frame I shall know I’ve got it wrong somehow but for the life of me, at this moment I can’t figure out what. Two were in the process of producing a very nice Queen cell which along with the frame it was on, I gave to four. They had earlier tried unsuccessfully to supersede and had not managed to produce a queen from an earlier frame of brood which I’d given them so hopefully they will have better luck this time. Incidentally, the Queen cell taken from two is the first primed cell I’ve seen this year. A quick look beneath the roofs of the nuc’ and three revealed the syrup all but gone so a top-up was given on my next visit. I also gave four a surface feeder full as they looked to be struggling a little. On that visit I took the oportunity to briefly examine three and was pleased to see that they had almost completely drawn out two of their frames and were well on the way with a further two. I’ll have a quick look at the nuc’ in the next couple of days by which time the Queen should have mated and started laying. I have seen quite a lot of pollen going in which is always a promising sign I think.
I mentioned earlier the absence of Queen cells being produced with the cell I removed from two being the only primed cell I’ve seen this year. I do try to be especially vigilant when going through the hives, not only because I don’t want to lose any of my bees to swarms but I am still hoping to have my other nuc’s populated before the season closes. Imagine my surprise when late yesterday afternoon the meadow was suddenly filled with flying bees. This was as big a swarm as I can remember seeing and I watched in amazement as they circled over the meadow before disappearing into the distance. I followed them a short distance in case they decided to cluster nearby but they obviously had other ideas and were soon out of sight. I’m hoping they weren’t my bees but the probability is that they were as I’m not aware of another apiary in the immediate vicinity. Apart from the obvious loss of half of a colony and the honey they take with them, I am especially disappointed if they have issued from one of my hives because it means that I will have missed or overlooked the obvious, unforgivable.
It’s ten days since my last entry, and what a ten days. We have enjoyed brilliant sunshine every day and what a difference the sun makes. The bees have been active from early morning ’till dusk. Shedloads of pollen and nectar going into every colony. The nuc’ is doing well and I have been able to start a second. It was hive two which had swarmed but they now have a new Queen so all is well. I had a quick look last week at hive three which is the hive now housing the swarm that I collected and although they had drawn out copious amounts of comb and were busy filling it with pollen and honey, there was no sign of brood or a Queen. I deduced that being a cast and headed by a virgin that she had probably got lost while on her mating flight. Despite this, the bees seemed happy enough and were busily going about the business of comb building and stores collecting. I had another look for her reasoning that at this stage, as only three frames had been fully drawn she should have been easy to see, but no. I gave them a frame of young brood from five and boxed them up.
With honey building up at a prodigious rate they, with the exception of two, were all given additional supers. I always place a new super next to the Queen excluder so the bees have to pass through it to get to the supers they have already been working on. I reason they are far less likely to ignore the new super this way. I forgot to mention, the entrance’s are fully open and have been ever since the flow began. They will stay this way until the wasps start making their first appearance.
Decided to have a proper inspection today. Another beautiful morning and my friend Liz had agreed to come over and give me the benefit of her wisdom. Always a bonus when she comes over. Apart from the fact that she’s good company, she has probably forgotten more about beekeeping than most of us will ever learn. I’ve lost count of the times when she has spotted me heading for some form of disaster and helped me avert it. She’s a lady I always listen to, every aspiring beekeeper should, in my opinion, have a friend like Liz.
We made our way down across the meadow about ten o’clock and by the time we reached my little apiary, we were both feeling the heat. Usually I’m wearing jeans so my “shorty” jacket is sufficient but these last few days I’ve taken to wearing shorts. “Not a pretty sight” I hear you thinking and you’re probably right. In fact it’s been so long since my knees saw the sun, I’m sure I felt them blink the first time I stepped outside. What shorts mean though, is that I have to wear the full length suit and this weather renders that an uncomfortable excercise to say the least.
We went through the hives at a reasonable pace, and I for one, was glad to get to the last one as by then, I was leaking from every pore and had already been stung a couple of times. This was by bees from six which were still more irritable than I should have liked but how busy they had been. They had filled a super since last I’d looked at them. It’s as though their industry is proportionate to their temper. Number three, that houses the swarm, had a pleasant surprise in store for me. Since my last visit the Queen had layed up two full frames and had started on a third, bearing in mind that these are extended frames, no mean feat. Not bad for a colony without a Queen, I think maybe I “should have gone to Specsavers”.
So, there we are, we’ve had our share of ups and downs here at Mendip but now things seem to be back on course. My Queen rearing didn’t get off the ground but I have ended up with two nuc’s, both doing well and we seem set for a good harvest. I’m going to say no more, I don’t want to tempt fate. Things can change so quickly in beekeeping but this is surely, one of the main attractions of our hobby. You just never know what they’re going to throw at you next. Just when you’re patting yourself on the back and convincing yourself that you know your bees, they’ll do something that confounds you. I think they do it just to remind us who’s really in charge, but that’s woman for you !
I mentioned the two nuc’s, I watched for some time the comings and goings of the juvenile bees, watching as they pause on the edge of the alighting strip, almost seeming to dare each other to be the first away. Silly, but I always think of my own children as they fought to take their first step. Took a couple of pic’s anyway, not sure how they’ve turned out.
QUEEN MATING NUC’S. NUC IN FIRST PIC ABOUT A WEEK OLD.
Now into the last week of July, pleased to say, all looking really good now, all, with the exception of three, on three or four supers and I hope to extract next week. Last week’s visit with Liz was, unless I have any specific concerns, the last time I shall disturb the brood chambers until late September when, following feeding, they will have their final health check and Varroa treatment. I like to leave them to get on with the business of preparing for Winter and am sure they will do this a lot better without my interferance.
Three have now drawn out six frames, four of which are fully laid up, home to brood of all ages. There is also plenty of stores. I mentioned earlier how placid they were so all bodes well for the future.
I looked at the two nuc’s for the first time. Nuc’ one is now about four weeks old and two about ten days younger. I knew from the activity at the entrances that Nuc’ one had been busy but I was unprepared for what I found when I opened them up. All five frames were solid with honey to the point I had difficulty parting them. It had been my original intention to over-winter the Queens in the nuc’s and use the Queens in the Spring but the congestion in one forced a rethink. Fortunately I had a spare brood box and floor so after removing the Nuc’ to one side and replacing it with with the spare box, the entire contents of one were tranfered accross. I had a couple of frames of drawn comb so these were placed either side of the nuc’ frames and the remaining space made up with foundation. This will now provide the Queen plenty of space to lay and the rest enough work to keep them busy while I decide what to do with them. The hatched Queen cell in two along with a small patch of brood showed me that they too had a laying Queen and they were carefully tranfered into a standard nuc’ box.
SHOWING CONGESTION IN NUC’ ONE, NOW HOUSED IN NEW HIVE. NUC,TWO NOW IN STANDARD NUC’ ON TOP.