Saturday, 14 May 2011

Bee mishap

It's always easy to write about the things that are going well in our endeavours, it's sometimes harder to share when things don't go so well 

Yesterday, things didn't go so well.

One of the options we could have implemented when we moved the bees into their new home, was to swap the old and new brood boxes round.  We didn't do this, instead once the Queen was in the new brood box, we put a Queen Excluder underneath so she couldn't lay any more eggs.  The plan was to just wait 3 weeks or so, so all the eggs would have gone through thir cycle and hatched,  and then remove the old brood box completely.

When we did our inspection last week, we didn't see the Queen. We saw brood,  weren't sure whether we'd seen eggs (it was too bright).  The bees hadn't been drawing out the frames in the super, which surprised us. We'd waited until they started drawing it out before excluding the Queen.

During the week we discussed options.  In the end, we decided that we would do an inspection this week, and we'd check out the bottom brood box and possibly swap them over. This way we only had one Queen Excluder.

With hindsight, it's easy to see what we should and shouldn't have done,  but here's a condensed summary of what happened.

I was at home with the chicks, so DH did this on his own.   The bees got quite upset.  DH was stung through his veil by many bees, there is a design flaw in it (above the brim there is mesh,  and the bees can sting through the mesh).

He put the hive back together, and left the area so the bees could calm down.   He sat in his car for a while.  After about an hour, he went back to check on the bees. He didn't go close to the hive, he just approached the allotment to look from a distance.  He didn't have his bee suit on.   The bees wre still on alert, and bees attacked him and stung him quite badly.

He talked through what happened with our bee friend,  and she was very helpful, as we now realise that there were a number of little things which came together to cause the problem.  

The main issue was that we should have either done our bee inspection or swapped the brood box.  Doing both took a long time, and got the bees rattled.        We might have got away with this,  but the bees honey source has dried up in the last week, there is a general lull while one source of pollen and nectar has finished and before the next one starts.  The bees were likely to have been grouchy because of this.  In addition, the weather has been unseasonably hot, and the bees have been missing the rain. All in all,  our interfering with the hive as we did for as  long as we did, turned their irritability into anger.  

And of course, once DH had been stung he was carrying the scent. Even though he removed the stings,  he still carried the scent of a sting - so when he approached the bees the second time just to take a look, they were immediately on the attack.

And we have certainly found the flaws in our beekeeping jackets.  The veil has mesh above the brim around the top of the head.  This is done for comfort, to prevent the wearer boiling over... but because the mesh is against the head (rather than away from it as the face veil is) the bees can get their stings through the mesh.   The cap part isn't adjustable, so it moves around on the head, meaning different parts of the head are against that mesh bit depending on the angle, so the bees were able to sting quite a range of places.

DH thinks that wearing a cap underneath will fix the problem.  I'm going to get a different type of jacket now, one with the fencing-mask type of hood.  I'll be scrutinising them carefully to look for possible areas of weakness.

Anyway. We both went to see the bees today, to make sure they had settled down and weren't causing a nuisance.  They were back to normal.     Of course, we didn't go close to the hive - we don't want to risk upsetting them unnecessarily -  and we'll leave the hive well alone for the next week!

DH is OK, much calmer about the being-stung part than I would have been.    His concern is about the bees themselves, and making sure we don't cause a problem for our neighbours.     I share those feelings - I just think that I'd also be feeling very nervous about the whole being-stung-by-so-many-bees part.

1 comment:

  1. Hia again!

    Don't worry, everyone makes mistakes. It's part of the learning process especially with keeping bees. No matter what anybody says you will learn better by experience than by reading books upon books etc.

    Hope your husband is ok.