Sunday, May 22, 2016

Chaos! and some Shakespeare(ish)

I was expecting something to be "up" after last week's inspection but what Dave and I found was more than a little bit interesting.... Last week Dave's old hive looked as though it was getting swarmy, so I was expecting to see some action here.  I was also half expecting my own hive to be doing stuff as well, but I was not sure what...

Hive 1: Dave's old hive.  As I said, I was expecting this to be swarmy and I arrived prepared to do an Artificial Swarm on it - expecting to find open queen cells. However, Dave and I found just a single closed Queen Cell in the hive (and we looked hard for others).  We also looked everywhere but didn't see a queen.  There appeared to be a lot of bees around so had they swarmed?.

Action?  I consulted my old mentor Eugene in Missour.  He thought it odd that there was just one cell, but that could be a supersedure where the bees only found one larvae the right age. It could also signal problems with the queen or he thought that maybe it's an old cell and the pupa is dead. We decided to leave this alone, especially as there was larvae in the hive.  Do Nothing!!!

Hive 2:  The hive I combined a few weeks back.  As I said, I was half expecting to do something here but inevitably we found more than we expected; a couple of open Queen Cells.  Fortunately I came to the apiary prepared to do an Artificial Swarm (only on Hive 1) so when Dave and I found the uncapped queen cells we changed our plans and did it on this hive instead.  All very easy and straightforward - once we found the queen - twice!

So we put the old queen in a new box of foundation with some food, and added the old supers above a Queen Excluder.  So this is still Hive 2.  The old hive that has the brood and open queen cells in it, we will move this during the week in order to keep the swarming urge suppressed.  This is now Hive 4.

Hive 3:  The caught swarm - about 2 weeks old.  We found the queen and a capped queen cell in this hive (2 weeks after catching it!), as well as brood and larvae (at about the same stage of development) both in the supers above and in the deep below a Queen Excluder!  I was, and remain, mystified by this!  Dave and I both thought the Queen looked too big to have crossed the QE.  Action?  Contact Eugene!

Eugene had heard of people catching swarms containing more than one queen - this was a very large swarm if you remember - but in this case they were both virgins. Oops!  I quoted him on that when he didn't want to be!

Our original thought (and Eugene's) was just to leave this for a couple of weeks and see what happens.  It's all very curious and I think time will sort things out.  There's the potential bonus of having a 2-Queen hive and the additional honey that can produce!


I'm reminded of a quote from Tom Stoppard's "Shakespeare in Love"...  Seems appropriate... my apologies for the hack...

Mentor Beekeeper...allow me to explain about the beekeeping business. The natural condition is one of insurmountable obstacles on the road to imminent disaster.

Me... So what do we do?

Mentor Beekeeper... Nothing. Strangely enough, it all turns out well.

Me... How?

Mentor Beekeeper...  I don't know. It's a mystery.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Something or Nothing.

It's been just over a week since the Students came to view the hives. All was well then - well kind of.

I went through the hives today and had another detailed look.  Things have changed; just a little:

Hive 1: During the week Dave put a second super on this hive (above a queen excluder).  I went through the hive this morning and found there had been some further nectar/honey collection in the hive but nothing too much.

The hive looks busy and I found the queen in the top deep.  I reversed the deeps, if nothing else than to make the queen move up again and not feel boxed in up in the top deep.  This probably makes no difference if you listen to what some people say i.e. the queen goes where she likes, when she likes.  I feel that's probably true but the likely trend is that she moves up, and besides it makes me feel proactive!

While going through the hive I did notice both the queen, lots of brood and larvae and a single uncapped Queen Cell which I removed.  I saw just the one but I will make contingency to do an artificial swarm next week when I can next get back in to inspect.

Hive 2: This has been busy and has remained very active over the past week.  The brood I found in the top super has largely all emerged and nectar is now filling the vacated cells.  The new supers I put on over the past couple of weeks are being drawn out, so that is encouraging, and there is a lot of brood in the deeps.  I decided after a while to stop the inspection as things were getting a little agitated and the bees were getting a tad stressed!

At least I have the equipment to do an artificial swarm; all I have to now do is swat up on what to do!

Hive 3:  The swarm hive has been getting more established.  The super has been filling and I replaced 3 old frames with new foundation.  The bees in the deep are still only on about 3 or 4 frames but nevertheless these have some brood and larvae on them.  I removed the feeder and let them get on with gathering nectar.  I did not see the Queen despite looking fir some time!  I hope, and trust, she is there!  Again, an inspection next week should determine that.

So now what I need to do - apart from considering undertaking an artificial swarm - is to consider making a split (or even two).  I feel there is sufficient brood etc. in the 2 large hives to manage making a split at some point in the next couple of weeks.

If I go to the hives next weekend with the required equipment prepared then at least I can have the option of doing something, or nothing!

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Swarms and Students

I had a really great day on Friday! I gave three very enthusiastic students from the Jamia Ahmadiyya in Haslemere a tour around the apiary. They were extremely keen to learn about beekeeping and I only hope I was able to answer all their questions fully!

I met up with them mid afternoon and gave them a quick briefing - about the bees, the equipment, the protection and most importantly to stay calm, don't worry and have fun!

Fortunately the bees for once were similarly briefed and cooperated beautifully!

We had quite a lot to cover as I now have 3 hives that are all at quite different stages of development. However, the first thing for us to notice was what was going on outside the hives.  There was a lot of activity!  It was a very warm spring day and from what I could tell there was a good nectar flow on; lots of bees flying in and out, not so much pollen being carried. So what did we find?

Hive 1:  This is the long established hive.  It needed no mite treatment a week or so ago but I went through the hive with the students, showed them brood, pollen, capped honey, eggs and larvae - it has everything you could want for a teaching hive!  We left it after adding a super of drawn comb - there's a flow on!

Hive 2:  This is the combined hive which had just had a course of MAQS mite treatment. I wasn't sure how this hive would have coped as my experience in the USA (where admittedly it was much hotter) was not good. But my fears were unfounded.

When I opened the hive I found the queen had been busy laying in the super!  Not too much brood, but enough!   But by way of compensation there was also a lot of honey and nectar in the super as well!  Anyway, I was sort of prepared for this as I had a super of undrawn foundation with me.  I checked that the queen wasn't in the in-situ super and then put the new super under it; the theory being that the queen won't cross the undrawn super, the brood will hatch and the bees will then fill the brood cells with honey - well, that's the theory!

Again we looked through the rest of this hive saw there were no queen cells but saw there was a lot of nectar in the cells.  So I felt quite good about putting a second super on.

I'll also do another mite count in a couple of weeks.

Hive 3:  The new Swarm Hive.  Last Wednesday evening Dave got a call from someone local who said she had swarm in her front garden.  And what a swarm!  It filled the skep.  Sadly there are no photos, but Dave reckons it's as big a swarm as he has ever caught.  He put the swarm into a new deep, added a queen excluder and a super.  Unfortunately he didn't have any new foundation available so the bees went into a box of old comb.

The good news however was that I have plenty of frames and so I planned, with the students, to relocate the swarm onto these new frames.  It was all ridiculously easy! 

Most of the frames were in a bad state so we just checked if the queen was there before we gently shook the bees into the hive.  We left just 3 original frames of decent half drawn comb; the rest was new foundation.  We also fed the bees some 1:1 syrup in order to stimulate some frame drawing.  But given the size of the hive and the activity in and out of it this may not really have been needed!

So the 3 students and I left the apiary happy and excited for pretty much the same reasons!  They had been through three hives, handled bees, seen the stages of growth and even tasted a bit of honey/nectar direct from the comb!  Very cool! I had seen the hives looking strong and calm!

I went back into the apiary today (Sunday) just to see the swarm hive again, but ended up looking at all 3, and I'm glad I did!  There wasn't much change to Hive 1, but the second super in Hive 2 was being drawn out, fast.  I didn't want the queen rushing back up too soon so I dashed home to get another super of undrawn foundation and popped that under the other 2.  

Three supers on - nectar flow - feeling happy!

I went this morning mainly to feed up the swarm and found they had taken about 1/3 of the feed from Friday.  So I topped it up.  I also found the queen and saw she had been laying - all very encouraging!  It would be nice to put some new super foundation on the hive soon.

All in all its been a brilliant weekend!  You just have to love spring!