Well where to start. Not sure what has taken longest on this one. Writing the blog a post, deciding what to include, or trying to think of a pithy name (gave up). Let’s just go through the hives and have an AOB section at the end.
(AOB is any other business for those who don’t spend as much time in meetings as me).
Wonderwoman is the queen of a swarm caught in Kyle’s bait hive last year this colony has built up extremely well this year. Using the drawing pin (US:push pin) hive note approach I shamelessly stole from Julie at happy hour at the topbar hive you can see this hive is doing WELL.
white – new bar, green – worker brood, blue – drone brood, yellow – honey, red – queen (top=cup, middle=cup+egg, bottom=cell capped).
I therefore took the decision to pull a few combs of young brood and create a split. I have someone interested in a topbar colony and with how well this colony is doing I thought it a good time. So on Sunday 19th June I pulled 3 frames of young brood and shook in bees from another 3 combs to account for foragers returning to the mother hive. Fast forward to today (thursday 23rd June). Having worked more hours than they are willing to pay me for at the hospital I decided to take the morning off. I could take my daughter to school and give the dog a good walking. On the walk I swung by the bees, my bait hives, and went even further (much to the mixed feelings of my panting Labrador). Towards the end of my walk what should I see but a small swarm hanging out of a fence post! I ran back to my house (much to the dismay of my Labrador) and collected the minimum of equipment and cycled back only to find they had already gone …doh! I continued back around on the bike and checked my bait hives again, which were still defiantly empty. The split I had made on the 19th was very quiet…almost guiltily so! Hang on…19th – 23rd is 4 days, starting on a 4 day larva would give 8-9 days, doh again! I obviously shook in more bees than they needed and they felt a swarm was viable. I am not sure what I more upset about, the fact that I missed collecting them by mere minutes, or that they didn’t choose one of my lovely bait hives all within half a mile of them…. yes I do…it the bait hive rejection 😦
I don’t want to talk about it.
These girls have also been doing well. This queen is the daughter of poppy and is several years on natural comb and treatment-free. I have a cross-comb legacy in the hive I have been trying to deal with. They are now in two national brood boxes, both built out with comb. Being so cross-combed (in the top box now) I cannot easy inspect to find the queen. The box underneath is now built out with lovely straight and new natural comb. On Sat 19th June I lightly drummed the top box and then smoked the top box to force bees into the lower box. I then inserted a queen excluder (gasp and shudder, I have never used these before) between the two boxes. Sometime in the next few day I will check for eggs. If they are in the bottom box woo-hoo I let them fill the top with honey and finally remove that cross-combed mess. If they are in the top box the excluder comes out and I try again. If that is the case then the queen will be presented with nearly a whole box of cleaned comb ready for her to lay in.
This queen was purchased last year with just a few frames and has laid like a boss this year. Having no equipment to match the 8 frame nuc I had built I supered a warré box onto it. Did this keep her down.. did it heck! The bees rapidly filled this box too. When I checked on Wed 15th I was thinking I would be adding another box but spotted queen cells being built on the trailing edge on the warré comb. I took the easy option and just picked up the warré box and put it on top of a warré stack I had ready to go. They got a free box of comb in the bargain. I removed the dummy board from the 8 frames nuc and sent emails out to beekeeping association committee is a request for a full national box. Luckily, I got a response and the friday evening the colony got a full 12 frame national brood box. It was clear at that point that this was the queenless side so Queen Hunmanbee has moved from a frames to natural warré combs. There have been a LOT of drone pupa chucked out, this colony is nothing if not efficient. The front of the hive looks a little like a slaughter ground.
NEW NATIONAL (from above)
busy busy busy with no queen all they have to do is forage. It is possible that this is the colony that swarmed today and not the top bar nuc only an inspection will tell. I have no intention of inspecting right now as this would be entirely to satisfy my own curiosity and would be of no benefit to the bees. Virgin queens can also be quite flighty and opening the hive when you know they may be emerging risks losing them. Reduction in activity alone is not enough for a colony that had this many bees free’d up from the split. New bees emerge each day and no brood is being laid so the activity can sometimes appears greater.
Queen Alan arrived as a cast swarm from someone in my association (guess his name). On Sunday the colony had already built out and queen laid 6 brood combs (though I did give them two to start with) and a further 3 honey combs. Not at all bad for 3 weeks work with no feeding.
These have come from framed hives and conventional beekeeping so this is their first foray into the top bar hives. They have obviously taken to it extremely well and are a very gentle colony. Being thrown into a large empty space (even with a two comb head-start) there was a danger of cross-combing. As it happens they have mostly stuck to the comb guides. I have had to realign just the ends of a few combs where a wave had started in. You might be able to see a shim on the right-hand side where I noted the comb was too deep for them to build straight on the next bar. This is a possible issue with honey combs as they have no set depth.
You can see the lovely black poppy pollen joining the oranges and yellows. This will soon be accompanied by the grey of brambles.
Actually I think I have rambled though most of what I was going to say. Though I would like to share with you a find and some news.
The find was during a walk in a local village after their annual dog show (our lab got 1st in best veteran, and 3rd in best in show, my daughter also got a 3rd for young handler). Below you can see what I found:
This is chicken of the woods. I have never seen so much in one place as it is usually snaffled up by a wiley forager (hedgerow forager, not bee forager). This was just one clump I found. Sliced and lightly fried on its own or in breadcrumb it looks and tastes almost exactly like chicken. I collected a small amount for the vegetarians coming to our BBQ/pizza oven party later that day.
The news is that I have been asked if I would be interested in running/teaching a beekeeping course at a local outdoor education centre. They have bees there already in conventional hives and are looking to expand their school courses to include adult weekend courses built around country living. Although they have the location and facilities they do not have someone to teach the beekeeping course. I said I would prefer to do natural/top bar beekeeping courses and they said fine. Guess I have another hive to build then! …. oh and do I need a tweed jacket with leather elbow patches?