Hive Inspection Saturday 29th April 2017, Glebe Lodge
As soon as Julia arrived we had a little council of war about the many variables we might encounter during our inspection: Would we find uncapped swarming cells? Would we have to perform an artificial swarming? Would the colonies need more supers? … This was not about finding the queen(s).
Peter got all the equipment sorted and arranged close to the hives. Having previously noticed some chalkbrood in Hive 2 we decided to open this one last to avoid possible contamination.
A double brood box plus a super, is now home to a large and thriving colony. This colony has a new queen, reared late in the season last year, after that colony lost its original queen (possibly through poor manipulation?).
That colony received another colony – hopelessly depleted by a drone laying queen – in the early Autumn 2016. We used the newspaper method to unite the two colonies.
We carefully inspected each frame in each BB and found no swarm cells, yet. Many more drones now, and drone cells as the swarming impulse is gathering strength. However the bees and the queen still have plenty of space. We noted some incidence of chalkbrood.
A single brood box and 2 supers, it houses a swarm we retrieved last July from the bottom of a rose bush. We observed through the seasons that it has always been a quiet hive in comparison to the others. It is also a smaller colony than the others.
However, a nice surprise awaited us as the bees have been very busy – witness, a full super of fresh honey already despite the recent poor weather. As we inspected the brood box frames, Julia happened to spot the queen. What a lively thing she was! I still managed to reach for my marker and put a blob of white paint on her thorax. We did not see any sign of swarming cells. Drone cells have appeared. However, the bees and the queen have plenty of space left in that single BB.
A brood box and a half, plus one super, it houses a large and very active colony. This was a swarm caught in July 2016, at “10 Acres”.
(Peter has already made a text-book photograph of the queen laying next to cells clearly showing eggs, very young larvae, and others at all stage of development). Again our inspection did not reveal any swarming cells. The drone population is expanding as we spotted them moving on the frames. There is space for the queen to continue laying in the BBs.
A brood box and a half plus two supers. This colony is one half of a split made last spring in early May, without our finding the queen. (The other half of the split developed a drone laying worker and could not be rescued). This means this split reared a new queen which went on to produce the honey we harvested last summer.
Unfortunately, Mistake ONE, the super we used to make the brood and a half has metal castellated runners and the bee space is increased by this castellation to suit better honey production. The bees have quickly filled it with enlarged capped comb! Are the bees filling it up with nectar/honey or has the queen been laying in these enlarged cells??? I trust the bees would know best. We will check asap.
We inspected the frames in the brood box below and found no sign of swarming preparations, except for drones and drone cells appearing in greater number. As I held one frame aloft, Peter spotted the queen. As I was with one hand holding and turning the frame to follow the queen round to the back, I reached for my pen and put a white splodge on her thorax and some on her wing.
Mistake TWO (How not to mark a queen)
Then to our utter dismay, she moved again and dropped of the frame!!! Julia felt her hit on her hand before she dropped below onto the ground. Mistake THREE (how to keep brood frames you inspect directly above BB, turning them as recommended by Venetia and Judy).
I desperately looked several times where she might have fallen, and through sheer luck caught sight of her, removed my clumsy gloves and picked her by her wings and reinstated her, she quickly disappeared between two top bars. Phew!
Well, the saying that “beekeepers learn one mistake at a time” is most apposite… Except that in our case we made two/three serious ones in Hive 2.