Into the second week of April now and I’m really getting the feeling that Spring is finally here. The meadow is alive with dandelions and there is an abundance of blackthorn in flower. Having all of this food so close at hand means the bees don’t have to fly more than a few yards before they can start taking advantage of this rich bounty, evidence that they are, being borne out by the copious amounts of pollen returning to the hives. As is to be expected when there is such a flow on, the bees are in remarkably good humour. I mentioned previously that four and seven housed my remaining two “bought in” queens and how seven had eventually given up the ghost. Four, by comparison, after what looked like a shaky start, I’m pleased to say, has really taken off. They began life as half of one of my mating nuc’s. Following the failure of the queen in the other half, I removed the partition and they were allowed to unite and this was how they went into Winter. What all of this means is that they are the last colony remaining on single brood and also, they are tying up one of my mating nuc’s, something I’m hoping I shall be sorely in need of as the season progresses. Well, it costs nothing to dream, does it!
Following two very poor seasons, I had, if you recall, decided that an infusion of new blood was called for and this was the thinking behind my decision to, for the first time, buy-in new queens. Although this exercise wasn’t exactly an unbridled success, with hive four now housing the one surviving queen, I am still firmly committed to bringing in new blood and now that she is finally exhibiting all the signs of a very good queen, I’m seriously considering her’s as donor colony for this season’s Cloake-board exercise. That is still a couple of months away but was still one of my reasons to have four on extended brood as soon as possible and last Monday presented the perfect opportunity. Following a very pleasant weekend, Monday dawned bright and clear and by ten o’clock, with the sun very much in evidence, and my drivers window wound right down, I made my way to the meadow. I had, the day previous, placed a new 14×12″ box, complete with floor and frames on the hive stand between four and five so, this morning, just a case of swapping the positions of the two boxes and manipulating the frames to suit.
I had my smoker to hand but I needn’t have bothered, so docile is this colony, another good reason for wanting to breed from them. With the new box in position, the returning flying bees started entering immediately and even with both roofs off, none of them took the slightest interest in me. The standard frames would need extending or replacing with extended and to that end I had a number of frame extensions and new 14×12″s with me. Just in case you haven’t come across the extension pieces before, they are available from Thornes along with the foundation strips.
14X12″ FRAME EXTENSION PIECES
EXTENSION FITTED TO STANDARD BROOD FRAME
When I want to re-wax reclaimed extensions and have spare standard foundation to hand, I just cut a standard brood wax sheet in half with a sharp pair of scissors, it fits perfectly, and you don’t have to pay postage! Fitting the extensions to frames crawling with bees takes a little more care and you will need a rampin. In case you haven’t encountered one before, this little gadget enables you to insert gimp pins without the need for a hammer. I think even the most docile of bees would take exception if you were to start hammering an extension on with them in residence.
RAMPIN IN USE ON MANLEY FRAME,
AND ON FRAME EXTENSION.
As I said, a little more care is required when fitting the extension to a live frame, as it were, but if I can manage it, I’m sure that you can.
STANDARD FRAME A COUPLE OF WEEKS AFTER FITTING AN EXTENSION.
The new box has castellated runners so it was a simple matter to replace the frames in the order I had removed them from the old box. A couple of the existing frames hadn’t been started so they were replaced with new. All of the others, with the exception of the one with the queen on, had extensions fitted, I didn’t want to risk upsetting her. In fact, it’s not absolutely necessary to extend every frame if you don’t want to, the bees will happily extend any standard frame that you leave them and provided you leave them between extended frames which they will use as a guide, they will maintain the bee-space all of the way around.
NOT A PARTICULARLY GOOD EXAMPLE BUT IT GIVES YOU AN IDEA
I didn’t time myself but I doubt the whole operation took little more than an hour and that included tidying up and removing the old box. The following day I gave them a feeder of syrup. They’ve got a lot of fresh foundation to draw out and I want to give them all the help I can.