Our beekeeping season 2016 so far
Our two G-colonies overwintered very well. One had one brood box, the other one had two, as we merged a queen-right colony with a queenless one in autumn last year.
In April we split the 2-broodbox hive. As we didn’t find the queen, it was a bit trial and error. But now both hives are thriving and show fresh and capped brood as well as lots of honey, nectar and pollen storage. So they’ve sorted themselves out.
In May & June, we caught 4 swarms
The first swarm (G4), a large one, arrived in a big Weigelia shrub on the plot where we keep our G-hives. We hived them, gave them a donated brood frame (from G1) and a feeder. They stayed happily (it seemed) for 4 weeks until suddenly they decided to swarm again. The donated brood had all died (starved?). They left no honey behind, just a tiny crowd of bees who disappeared after a few days. They probably begged their way in to another hive.
The second swarm (G5), a small one, arrived a week later on the same Weigelia. We hived them, gave them a feeder which they emptied, and gave them a donated brood frame from G3. However we’ve discovered now that they let the whole brood die (why?), and they don’t seem to be queen-right. Just honey, nectar and pollen, but no brood on the frames (we took the dead brood out). The plan is now to merge them with another small but queen-right colony in G6.
The third swarm (G6), a small one, was caught at the bottom of a rosebush in a village garden. We found lots of dead bees on the ground, probably because they had been on this bush for a whole week in very cold and windy weather. So they might have died from starvation or of thirst. We hived them, fed them and gave them a donated brood frame (from G3). This very small lot has settled in quite well and has fresh and capped brood as well as nectar, pollen and honey.
The fourth swarm (G4) arrived yesterday evening, clinging to the roof and side of G6. We think it’s probably a cast swarm, so it would have a virgin queen. We positioned the empty G4 hive next to the swarm on G6, hived most of the swarm and fed it, left the entrance open over night for all to move in. But this morning Michele found they had come out again and clung to their old location on G6. This early morning we saw the queen – So Michele hived most of them again in G4 and moved G4 away from G6 (hopefully we’ll get the rest this afternoon) or this evening, the entrance is now closed. Some German beekeeper told us to leave a swarm enclosed even for 3 days!
The question is now: If this swarm has a virgin queen, how long will she take to settle in the new home before going out to mate? Some beekeepers even say, if there are several rainy days, and the colony cannot swarm, a swarm may have all kinds of queens, laying + virgins. So there could be more than one virgin in the cast. Apparently a virgin queen has a window of opportunity to mate that is about 4 weeks long.
So we’ll better leave them in peace for a while …