Our best colony of bees is housed in a long deep hive. We were thinking that the queen would probably need to be replaced this year; she has produced very large colonies for three years in a row. The long deep hive currently has 23 deep frames – about the equivalent of three national brood boxes – all but three of which are full of honey, pollen, and brood, along with a huge number of bees. Despite achieving a large size and being highly productive, in the two previous years this colony has showed no signs of swarming. In fact, there was not a single queen cup – those cells sometimes referred to as play cups, which are often made near the bottom of the comb ready to be developed into queen cells when needed. This is a little strange as, of all our colonies, this is the one that has been in the best position to swarm. Continue reading
Some weeks ago we dealt with a colony with some aggressive tendencies by removing the queen. One week later we went through the hive carefully and removed all of the queen cells. We checked again a few days later to be certain that no queen cells remained. By doing this, we prevented the bees from making a replacement queen. We then introduced a frame with eggs and young larvae from a donor colony, from which, it was hoped, they would make a replacement. This week we inspected the colony for the first time. Continue reading
Once again there is another beekeeping disappointment to report. In my last post, I mentioned that we had a colony with slightly aggressive tendencies and had forced them to replace the queen with some larvae from a frame provided by another colony of very nice bees. Hopefully, offspring from the first crossing will still retain their gentle characteristics. We did a similar thing with another small colony to give us a further queen should it be needed. When we recently checked the donor hive, though, we could not find the queen, nor any sign of eggs. It is not clear what might have happened. There is always a possibility of damaging the queen by accident when inspecting a hive although we were very careful and have not spotted her on any of the recent occasions, although she had clearly been there, given the presence of copious quantities of eggs and young larvae. There were several supersedure cells – those queen cells generally built on the face of the comb – so we are hopeful of a successful replacement. The loss of the original queen, though, is a rather disappointing.
Over the last couple of months we have been increasingly bothered with one of our colonies, which has become a little aggressive. The bees also have the bad habit of following us after we approach the hive. As hobby beekeepers, working with a large colony of angry bees is not pleasant and we certainly do not want anyone to get stung. We therefore decided to replace the queen before matters got out of hand. Rather than try to introduce a new queen, which is never certain of success, we decided to allow them to create a replacement. However, we did not want one from this queen’s eggs, but from another colony of very nice bees. To start with, we went through the hive to make sure there were no existing swarm or supersedure cells. We then found the queen and removed her. Continue reading
The season is long here in a sheltered pocket near the south coast, much longer than in other parts of the country. Our bees are still putting honey away, the heather is still in flower, although it emerged rather early this year, and the ivy and other late season plants are yet to open. It will be quite a few weeks before our bees are ready for winter, but this week Dad and I began some preparations. Continue reading
After losing a queen a couple of weeks ago, last week we requeened one of the hives with a new Italian queen, having first removed all of the queen cells. This week, we carefully inspected this hive for the first time since introducing her. Thankfully, she appears to have been accepted and has already started laying.
We had also given up on one colony, which demonstrated suicidal tendencies – disposing of new queens after losing theirs early in the year, then failing to raise a replacement of their own when they had the opportunity – and had all but died out. We got to the point where we really did not want to try to requeen again and risk losing yet another valuable queen, so therefore abandoned them to their fate, choosing instead to start a new colony. This colony, formed from some spare brood frames from the long deep hive, and a new queen, has been doing well for the last couple of weeks, so we moved it today into its final home. All went well, and we now have four happy colonies once again.
Today’s hive inspection was generally encouraging, with three large colonies in excellent health. All hives sported frames with large areas of clean white brood, and good amounts of stores are being laid down. The gold bees in the long deep hive show no signs of swarming, despite becoming a very large colony with an astonishing amount of young brood. They currently have roughly the same space as two national brood boxes but could benefit from a few more frames. The newly merged colony has also become rather large, with a lot of young brood, but still with some space on new frames. We will be adding a second super soon, perhaps next week. Continue reading
Today was time to go through all of the bee hives, a job that needs doing ideally once per week at this time of year. We currently have four colonies: one long deep hive which we started with a virgin Italian gold queen, who was likely mated with the Buckfast bees that we kept at the time; one national hive with an Italian queen, one with our last Carniolan queen, and one that lost its queen earlier in the year. The latter was requeened a few weeks ago. However, although the queen was initially accepted, she did not appear to lay well and, on a recent inspection, was nowhere to be found. They had made supercedure cells and we decided to leave them to make a replacement for now, and worry about requeening the hive later. Today we found the queen cell vacated but the hive queenless once again, with no sign of eggs. Now there are few bees left, and those are getting old. We decided to leave that hive alone and start a new colony.