Here’s the queen. She is marked with a white dot so we can see her better.
Archive for April, 2007
How exciting is this.
We have just put an order in for two nucs and a queen.
We are getting the nucs on Sunday and we will set one up in Alison’s parents garden and the other in my garden.
Then next week we will split the hive we have now and give the new queen to my parent’s.
Busy few weeks ahead.
Here is one of our bees doing her thing.
For me it is fascinating to watch the bee collecting the nectar and pollen.
Her hairy body is clearly visible and her actions with her back legs move the pollen dust she has caught in those hairs onto her pollen baskets.
It’s been a worrying week. Colony collapse disorder is in the news again. Looks like it could have reached the UK.
Brian thought he found evidence in the photos he took of our spring clean, of what looked liked two of the most dreaded diseases known to bee; American foul brood and European foul brood. They are the BSE of the bee world and anyone found with contaminated bees has to have all their bees, hives and equipment burned. I thought Brian was overreacting until he showed me the photos and I reluctantly agreed they did look like the ones in the book. I was devastated. They say it has nothing to do with the beekeeper, but you can’t help thinking you must have done something very wrong. Moreover, you feel really bad that you couldn’t protect your bees from danger. Brian sent the photos to our regional bee inspector to confirm our worst fears. However, a three day bee conference delayed any response, so we were on tenterhooks fearing the worse. I rang the chair of my beekeepers’ association who told me that the first sign of either of these diseases was a strong smell. As neither of us smelled anything other than honey, we shouldn’t worry, he advised. But we did. It wasn’t until Friday when Brian was able to show an experienced bee keeper at his weekly bee keepers’ association meeting that we finally had confirmation that all was in fact well. There was no disease. We were so relieved. I think we’d got a bit carried away with all the scares about bee diseases.
A video of us spring cleaning the hive…individually inspecting each frame.
Finally warm enough to do the hive spring clean. This is where we open up the bees’ home after the winter and see how they’re doing. With colony collapse disorder in the news – a strange new disease which has seen bees across the US mysteriously flee their hives to die – we’re a little worried that they may have left home. But we had a peek a few weeks ago and they were still there, so it seems unlikely. There are, however, a long list of diseases that they could have picked up over the cold winter months. The most likely include: verroa, tiny brown mites that kill the bees; chilled brood – when the bee larvae has died of cold – and chalkbrood, a fungus that kills the larvae. Bees are pretty susceptible to disease these days, so we’re looking out for signs of any problems. We’ve got a book from the Defra, the government department with responsibility for bees – yes, there is one – containing graphic photos of common diseases to help us identify them.
We also urgently need to find our queen and mark her. It’s a good idea to know where she is as the working of the hive revolves around her. Even though she has a much longer body than her worker bees, at the height of the summer with 50,000 bees in the hive it’s really difficult to see her without a mark. Now with only some 10,000 bees we’ve got a better chance of spotting her. When we do, we have to trap her in a little cage and put a blob of Typex-like fluid on her back. The marker colour is white because she’s last year’s queen and they get white. This year’s get a yellow blob. Queens usually live for three years, then the workers create a new one by feeding royal jelly to a larvae.
After queen marking, we’ll give the hive an extension so the queen has more room to lay her eggs. Brian’s been told that adding a second brood box on top of the existing one is the best extension as the bees will move to the frames upstairs in a few weeks so we can take away the downstairs and clean it. We kit ourselves up in our bee suits, light the smoker in case the bees get agitated and open the hive. To our horror, the first frame is a bit mouldy due to some damp at the front of the hive. The next two are similarly blackened, but there are still stores of honey. To our relief, towards the centre of the hive we find the expected brood (babies) which is pearly white coloured larvae in all stages of development, surrounded by multi-coloured pollen. Finally, to our excitement on the eighth frame we catch sight of the queen. She is huge. Much bigger than we expect. Bit scary. She tried to run away. We quickly trap her, and blob her, nearly squashing her in the process, then let her go. The last three frames hold more honey.
The verdict is that the things look OK, yippee, apart from the damp. Brian takes photos of all the frames for a visual record.
We can’t believe how well behaved our bees are during the inspection. There’s hardly a buzz out of them. I wonder if there are any cannabis plants nearby. Brian didn’t wear gloves and didn’t get one sting.
We add the extension, and give them another storey half full of honey that we never harvested last year because it wasn’t ready to eat. Although they haven’t got through all their winter stores of honey we figure they could do with some more to give them energy for the coming months ahead.