Half way through July now and the current heat wave looks set to continue and, as you would expect, the bees are continuing to take full advantage of the situation. Problems with my shoulder have prevented me from taking more than a cursory glance at the bees so far this month, so, yesterday, in the company of two of my friends from the Society, was the first opportunity I’ve had to carry out a full inspection of the meadow hives. When I say I carried out an inspection, what I mean is, I stood by and watched, feeling more than a little guilty I have to say. Of the three swarms now residing at the meadow, the first one, now in hive three continues to go from strength to strength. Although there are still three frames of foundation, in the brood chamber, still waiting to be drawn out, the bees seem to be focussing their attention on filling the super which, although I wasn’t able to handle it, had all the appearances of being nearly filled. The second, now hive eight and home, if you remember, to the queen I found up in the Adams feeder, has been coming along really well. Very nice brood patterns taking shape skirted by pollen and honey, so imagine my surprise at today’s visit, to find three well shaped queen cells in the middle of the brood nest. They, for some reason known best to themselves, have decided to supersede. The presence of brood along with the demeanour of the bees, at my previous visit, suggested that they were settling in well but, obviously there was something about the queen that the colony didn’t like. I like to re-queen any swarm that I decide to keep as soon as an opportunity presents itself, so the supersedure was welcome rather than being a problem, it just took me by surprise. Leaving them with the best of the three queen cells they had produced, we moved on to hive four. After a good start to the year, by the end of June they were busy working their third super, hive four has appeared to be struggling. It was a similar story last season which led to them receiving one of my bought-in queens. A thorough search through the brood box revealed no signs of brood although the demeanour of the bees did nothing to suggest that they were queenless. The consensus opinion was that hive four should receive another frame of brood in an effort to prove once and for all whether or not they had a queen, and, so it was. Another frame of brood was taken from three and placed into four. the queen in three had only just finished laying this frame up and in addition to brood of all ages, there was a nice patch of eggs plain to see. The three of us have agreed to meet up again next week and it’ll be interesting to see whether four has decided to produce queen cells on this occasion.

A week on from our last visit, and having once again enlisted help it was to “C” that we first directed our attention. I have visited site on a couple of occasions since our last visit, not to open the hives, but just to satisfy myself that all was looking ok., and that was how things appeared from the outside. Similar amounts of activity outside each hive gave the appearance that all was well within. So, imagine my surprise upon opening hive one to see no signs of a queen. There was no brood and very few bees and what bees there were, were wandering aimlessly about, the way they seem to do when they’ve suddenly lost their queen. Boxing one back up we moved on to the others, which glad to say, are all looking good, even the nuc. I shall unite the nuc with what’s left of hive one at my next visit.

On next to the meadow and hives eight and nine. Nine appears to be coming along nicely and the queen cell that we left in eight has hatched. Seeing the empty cell told me what I wanted to know and the hive was quickly boxed up. Knowing that young queens are well capable of flying off if disturbed I didn’t want to take any chances with this one which was why the frame along with the empty cell was quickly re-instated. Our final visit was to hive four where I was hoping to see queen cells on the brood frame we’d given them at our last visit, but no, there had been no attempt at rearing a new queen which meant that somewhere in the hive, the old queen was still in residence. Running out of time, I had no option but to box up four and leave it at that. My intention, at our next visit will be first to establish that the new queen in eight has mated and is laying and if that is the case, to find and cull the queen in four. That done, the queen from eight will be given to four and eight and nine will be united. That is plan “A”, and I’ll let you know whether it comes to pass. Of course, by the next time of writing, we could well be on plans “B” or “C”.

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