It is has been quite some time since I posted and indeed nearly as long since I had bees. We had several very difficult years here for bees and my principles on minimal feeding and proved to their detriment. We live and learn, it is unfortunate that this often at the cost of the bees. Despite this, I am still known as the “bee man” in my village. As such I was approached by a neighbour asking if I could collect some “honeybees” who had moved into their bird nesting box, he kindly said “…not to worry I don’t want any money for them” (how generous). Anyone who been on a swarm collection list finds very quickly that the number of calls you receive for tree bumbles vastly outnumbers the calls you get for honeybees. They are smaller than what most people recognise as bumblebees, they nest high up (in the eaves of houses, or their favourite, bird boxes). They also tend to have larger colonies and in June have drone displays which look a little like honeybees when they orientate. Since the little bumbles only nest for a season I usually advise people to just leave them alone. In a few cases, the bees have started to worry people and I have relocated the bird boxes to my apiary for summer. It’s always nice to have a little diversity to my bee group. (below left: tree bumble, below right: honeybee).
The very next week a local smallholder asked if I could help them startup with bees. I offered to help with equipment (if needed), advice (if required), and opinions (regardless), but regretfully couldn’t help him “get” bees. Walking the dog through my apiary just three days later I found I had unintentionally lied to him! Not only did I have bees I had two lots of bees! Two swarms had moved into neighbouring hives, one into a topbar hive (a prime swarm) and another into a conventional (national) hive (a cast swarm), probably from the same mother hive. They had been there a while already as the cast was successfully laying and the prime had brood that had already emerged. We have transferred the cast to his smallholding, a beautiful spot surrounded by wildflowers.
My 10 year old daughter has announced she intends to help with the bees this year. In naming the queen for our topbar hive I explained to her I usually name queens after what is around at the time. When Poppys have been in bloom we have named the queen poppy etc. Based on this I asked my daughter what we should be call this queen and without missing a beat she said “Puddle!”.
Since then, we have had another swarm arrive which quickly requeened and threw a tine cast. My daughter has pronounced these queens to be called splash and squirt (for the smallest). I think she may have a real talent for naming.