Had a look at 5 of my hives this afternoon, too damn hot in my bee suit to inspect others, so the other 3 can wait til tomorrow. All looking well and I am surprised how much honey is in some of the hives. I am estimating to take about 150 lbs of honey next week. The oil seed rape around here is finishing its blooming, so in a week it will be time to get the honey off before it sets. With the OSR being late to flower this year, due to the cold and wet April and early May we had, it will be perfect timing if I get this honey off and the wet supers back in place as the lime trees start to come into flower. I wonder whether we will get a June gap this year. Time will tell.
Another piece of good news is that my photograph ” Honey bee collecting nectar from a crocus flower ” has been short listed in the British Wildlife Photographic Awards www.bwpawards.org. Final judging is in August, so will have to keep fingers crossed.
At last some fine weather, so I was keen to get out today to inspect my hives. I had wanted to do it over the weekend but it was far too cold to open them up. I knew a couple of hives would have queen cells and would be soon ready to swarm.
The first of these two is the only hive I have never spotted the queen, thus she is not marked. I searched through each frame twice, then ask my wife to join me and we went through a third time with a fine tooth comb. Main brood box frames and half brood box. Could we see her – No ! I found three perfectly formed queen cells capped and knew that if I didn’t find her they could swarm at any time.
Unbelievably my brother telephoned to say he was in farm yard and one of my hives had swarmed in the wood nearby. It sods law, as I knew instantly which one. I soon arrived and saw the bees airborne, about 100 meters from the hive. They were clustering deep in a hawthorn hedge. I set up a travel box, a small ramp covered in a white sheet, then set about trying to cut the main branch of the hedge they were clustered in. I got the main cluster and shook that over the travel box. I then closed the lid and continued cutting smaller branches before shaking them on to the white sheet. Many entered the hive up the ramp and many were clinging to the outside of the box, smelling their queen through the air vents, but not yet discovering the entrance. As it cools tonight they will find the entrance to join her, then about 8pm this evening I am delivering the colony to a new beekeeper.
I am still concerned about the hive I introduced a new queen to. There is some sealed brood, but not much and I still cannot see eggs and fresh larvae. I am not convinced this queen is healthy. So I have tried an experiment. The next door hive, which I split today had a number of queen cells. I removed a frame with a surplus queen cell and have placed this in the problem hive. What will happen ? If the queen is there, healthy or not, I would expect her either to swarm just before the queen cell emerges or being a smaller weaker colony, the new virgin queen if she emerges will kill her off. I am going to leave this hive for a couple of weeks now and will see what has happened in this period. Will report what I find.
One thing I was surprised to find is how much honey is in most of the hives. We have had six wet, grey and cold weeks but it seems they have still been able to find nectar to bring in. Forecast is good now and oil seed rape has about another two weeks of flowering. So if the bees can work the OSR, then the first extraction might not be as bad as I first thought it would be.
Whilst drinking a coffee outside yesterday morning on a clear blue Sunday morning, I noticed there seemed to be a few more bees flying about around the terrace than normal. It made me wonder whether the feral colony in the gate pillar was thinking of swarming. An hour later, whilst reading the Sunday newspaper in the bath, my wife called to say there was a swarm. I jumped out and in a towel, was able to see that ’000′s of bees were airborne coming from the gate pillar. I always like to catch this colony, as there has been a feral colony in this pillar for 10+ years and my believe is that they have built up an immunity to varroa. All experts I speak to about this, disagree. However, I have watched this colony for more than 10 years coming and going. I know they are not a new swarm annually finding this pillar as a nest, as I see them in winter when the sun is on the pillar and there are a few flying outside the entrance.
Kitting up, I went and had a close look at the swarm, which was now starting to cluster on the wooden fence, only 5 yards from the gate pillar they were swarming from. In the past when I have caught them swarming, they have clustered on a branch close by, which has made it easy for me to capture them. This time they chose to cluster along the side of the fence.
Looking closely at the swarm clustering, I was surprised I saw the queen. Grabbing a few photos, I was hoping she would remain in the same area within the cluster as I got everything together. I placed a hive in the garden, which had new wax foundation plus 3 frames of drawn comb. I built a ramp up to the entrance and covered this with a white sheet. The hive was open, so hopefully I could get the queen in, close the lid and the others would join her.
My wife got into one of my beesuits, ( as you can see it is far too big for her ) and she held a travel box under the area where I had seen the queen. I quickly brushed a good number of bees into the box, hoping that I had the queen. I shook the bees into the top of the hive and quickly added the crown board. Was she in ? I was confident she was. We continued sweeping bees into the travel box and dumping them on to the white sheet. About 6 box loads of bees got dumped on to the sheet and I knew the queen was in the hive, when I saw the bees all running up the sheet and into the hive entrance to join her. Within an hour they were all in. I left them, as we were going out to lunch with friends and returned in the evening, removing the ramp and sheet. Normally I don’t feed a swarm for 48 hours, as they have engorged themselves with honey before they swarmed. However, this morning was wet, so the bees couldn’t forage and tomorrow is forecasting showers. I therefore have now added a feeder and hopefully this will sustain them and help them to draw out the foundation, whilst we wait again for fine weather.