Change of weather, change of fortune

I have been keeping an eye on the hives of late but not messing about with them too much. The weather is flowing inevitability towards autumn and with the shortening of the days comes the slowing down of the hives.

I can no longer inspect (open inspection) the hives after work in the evening. It is just a little too cold for my conscience to allow. That only leaves me with weekends to open them up, and the weather in Yorkshire is…. unreliable.

Formally Phoebee
This hive swarmed whilst I was on holiday and I have been waiting for signs of a laying queen. Whenever I have tried to inspect this usually placid colony has been extremely reactionary. A change in temperament like this was not a good sign but I hoped for the best. The activity in this hive however has continued to drop off. I managed to fully inspect the hive this weekend and things really don’t look good. There was the crack of propolys on opening, a further sign of the march towards winter. Once open the bees gave me no trouble and appeared listless. There were bands on honey at the top of 22 combs and I removed any empty to reduce the hive to a more manageable size for them.

I have never been a whiz at queen spotting but this hive’s queen (and her daughters) are particularly hard to spot. Their markings have all been VERY similar to the workers and are all quite skinny.  Still I looked hard and found not a monarch.

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The brood pattern was spotty and very bumpy suggesting drones.  Whether this is a drone laying queen or a laying worker at this stage I think it is unimportant.

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You get an idea of how they feel from this comb really. Queen cup anyone? I fear I may have to shake these bees out in front of another hive one evening so they can find a new queenright home. It is just too late in the year for a brood transfer.

Boudica’s bees
It might not be summer anymore but someone forgot to tell these girls. On Sunday it was grey and overcast with a little mist in the air. Boudica’s hive was as busy Heathrow on a bank holiday.

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Opening up I notice there were still a few squatters in residence. I am afraid I had to well and truly block their route of entry this time as I will be putting the insulation board in later this week.

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On opening the hive I noticed the propolys was still very soft and sticky. The colony is obviously having no trouble maintaining a good temperature. The bees were still festooning in places suggesting comb building is still underway. There is still a solid brood pattern and fresh eggs.

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I removed the remainder of the comb from the brewery bees. You can see in the picture below how they chewed down the comb to expose the larvae. This reduced the hive to 18 bars. Not all of the bars are fully built out so they should have plenty of space for the rest of autumn but not too much to keep warm in winter.

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All in all I am really pleased with this colony.  After the shaky start we had we are getting on well and the bees are doing well.

I ended up with quite a bit of empty comb from both hives. Any good empty comb I placed behind the follower boards to help out next year. I only removed the comb that was very old, wonky or had high drone cell content.

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My wife has a fancy to make lip balm but we shall see! Next update on Warré hives in a few days…yes… I said hive’s’!

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8 Responses to Change of weather, change of fortune

  1. Emily Scott says:

    18 bars sounds enormous! Like the final photo of all the comb with different shapes and sizes,

    • deweysanchez says:

      A fully built out comb is about 10% larger than a national brood frame so 18 bars would be about a double brood. Since not all the bars are fully drawn out this nearer a brood and a half. However, being natural comb the cell sizes are slightly smaller than comb from foundation. This means more bees per square inch *sigh*. One day I will do the maths but not this day 🙂

      • Emily Scott says:

        When my bees draw out fresh comb (for instance if I accidentally leave too much space in the hive) it tends to be very big drone or honey cell sized. Do your bees vary the cell sizes a lot or is it mostly smaller?

      • deweysanchez says:

        That is a phenomenon noticed with bees managed using foundation. Because they are constrained to worker cells when given the opportunity they make drone. Generally when given a free hand they make worker. During spring some comb ends up with patches of drone cells. This comb can be moved to the outside of the nest for honey storage. Later in the year bars inserted to the outside of the nest are often drawn as large cell because it is easier and they only intend to put honey in them.

  2. solarbeez says:

    I really like natural comb AND smaller bees. Do you think smaller bees mean fewer mites? I do.

    • deweysanchez says:

      I think it CAN result in a lower mite load rather than DOES. You have to consider what smaller cells and therefore smaller bees gives you. Smaller bees means marginally shorter pupation, meaning shorter periods of mite replication. Smaller bees mean more bees per square inch of comb making it easier to maintain correct brood temperature which inhibits mite replication. Smaller bees means the gapping between the comb can be smaller again allow closer temperature control.

  3. Julie says:

    So sorry that Phoebee just didn’t work out. 😦 It’s such a bummer to work so worry and fuss over a hive, and then be forced into finally admitting the loss.

    Boudica looks great, though. Fingers crossed for her!

    • deweysanchez says:

      Thanks Julie. It is a little sad but I hold out hope that she found a good home somewhere. I still have one of her daughters in my warré hive. Hopefully she’ll make it throw winter in one piece.

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