APRIL

Despite hive 1 receiving two frames of brood over the last couple of weeks, still no sign of brood except for a couple of drone cells so, at the next visit I culled the queen and added another frame of brood. A quick look the following day revealed they had already begun drawing out new queen cups on the new brood frame so, it was the right decision to remove the queen.

It looks as though the swarming season has started early this year, probably down to the couple of hot weeks we’ve just had. I was called to my first one a couple of days ago and my friend Liz told me that she had collected one two days earlier. I helped a friend inspect his hives last weekend and it was obvious from the number of sealed queen cells that at least two of his colonies had swarmed, so as I said, it looks as though this year’s swarming season is well under way. The swarm which I was called to was in a little village, not a million miles away from me so no problems there. The swarm had originally gathered in his chimney. Not wishing to have uninvited guests setting up their home there, but also, not wishing to harm them, the owner had lit a small fire using just a handful of twigs. This resulted in the bees leaving the chimney and clustering in a conifer in the garden. It was at this point that I received the ‘phone call.

I arrived to be greeted by the owner and to find the swarm just as described and not only that, he had a small tower scaffold which he kindly offered me the use of. Within minutes he had erected it for me and I was perched on the top of it, positioning the nuc. which I had brought for the purpose, below the cluster.

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SWARM NOW SAFELY IN THE NUC.

The number of flying bees suggested that they were almost ready to decamp, so just in time I couldn’t help thinking. A sharp tap on the branch from which they were hanging, and they were safely in the nuc. Within seconds there were bees fanning at the entrance, always a welcome sight, I think. We agreed that I could leave the nuc on the scaffold platform until the evening to allow the flying bees to re-join their brothers and sisters.

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THIS WAS THE PICTURE AS I LEFT. THEY ALL SEEMED HAPPY ENOUGH.

Just from walking up the garden when I returned later, I could see that most of the flying bees were no longer in evidence, so safe to proceed. What I was surprised to see was, as I climbed the ladder and got level with the nuc. a dozen or more bees were lined up at the entrance, almost as though they were waiting for me. They didn’t attempt to fly which was what I was half expecting them to do, instead, they turned, almost as one, and disappeared into the safety of the nuc. So, into the car and home. I couldn’t help thinking as I made my way to the Station Apiary, if only they were all this easy!

A week had passed since I’d last inspected the hives, first to “C” where pleased to see, all progressing nicely, no sign of queen cells which in view of what I’d seen at my friends apiary, quite a relief. Then on to The Station site. It was now two days since I’d installed the swarm nuc and although I’d left them with a frame of drawn comb and some stores, I was eager to see how they were doing, so, first stop, the nuc.

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FIRST STOP THE NUC.

Lots of bees, there’s a lot more than you can see from the pic.,and very placid, always a bonus. I made up the nuc. with a full complement of frames and made my way to the hives. In hive one, now several capped queen cells, just what I was hoping to find. I broke down all but the best two and will have another look the day before I’m expecting them to emerge, when I will either break the smaller one down or use it to make up another nuc.

The last Thursday of the month and I’ve just received notification that my new queens would be arriving Saturday morning. What with giving brood to the swarm nuc. and Hive one, I was quite concerned that I might not be able to find enough for the nuc’s. that were going to house my new queens, not without seriously depleting the other hives. Fortunately, one of my fellow society members came to the rescue. I was meeting with him later that day to give him a hand with his colony inspections. When I mentioned my dilemma regarding my new queens and their nuc’s, or lack of as was going to be the case. “No problem” was his welcome reply, “I’m looking to downsize so if you want a couple of frames of brood, just help yourself”. By the end of the day, I had two nuc’s, back at the Station apiary, both with a really healthy looking frame of brood plus additional bees and a frame of stores which my own hives had supplied. I left feeling a lot happier to await delivery of my, new long awaited queens.

Sure enough, as promised, the post lady handed me a small package marked, “LIVE BEES, HANDLE WITH CARE” on Saturday morning. I usually give any new arrivals a couple of drops of water and a couple of hours to recuperate from their journey before moving them on to their nuc’s. which I do by first transferring them from their travelling cage into a Butler cage which I prefer. This is quite a simple matter which I usually perform on the kitchen window cill, not before putting the plug into the sink, I hasten to add. I had a queen flutter down from the cill into the sink on one occasion and the last thing you want to see, at this point, is your precious queen disappearing down the plughole. It’s quite a simple matter to open the small plastic rectangular travelling cages that the queens normally arrive in. The flying bees will then normally leave to pitch on the window leaving the queen to be gently coaxed into the Butler cage. It seems to be the view shared by most “experts” that queens are far more likely to be accepted if they are unaccompanied by their attendants and as it seems to be good advise, I have always installed my bought-in queens in that manner. Today however, this was going to be a problem, as these queens had arrived in travelling cages which I hadn’t encountered before and which I couldn’t figure out how to open, at least, not without risking crushing the bees. So, nothing for it but off to the Station site with my new charges. The bees in the nuc’s. seemed in very good humour, especially considering that they had all been so recently plucked from the comfort of their own homes and tossed around in my nuc’s., and were all over the queen cages before I had finished installing them.

 

 

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