Monday, 13 June 2011

Big Decisions

So, our Bee course on Saturday helped us decide what we needed to do next with the Bees,  and today we did it.

Today we divided the hive into two, taking 5 frames of eggs/brood for each hive, adding in a shallow frame into each hive (so that drone brood would be built underneath it, and we could check that for Varroa), 3 or 4 frames of stores, and 1 or 2 empty frames for the bees to draw out.  We then put a Super on top of each hive.  We have 3 frames of honey that we are going to extract today.

We believe that the Queen - who was clipped - was lost last week when the hive tried to swarm,  so we have left one Queen cell in each of the two hives.  One cell was sealed and we expect the Queen to be emerging on Wednesday, and the other had an unsealed Queen larvae in.    We put bees in both hives, making sure we did triple shakes over the new hive to get the nursery bees to drop in. We're hoping that the nursery bees will stay in the new hive to look after the brood that is there, even if the flying bees go back to the original colony.  As advised, we bunged up the entrance with grass and leaves on the new hive.

We now need to leave the hives alone for about 3 weeks (possibly 4 weeks in the case of the hive with the unsealed queen cell).  That will give the new Queens time to emerge, go off and get mated,  and start laying.  When we do go in to inspect we will be looking for eggs - and the Queens if possible - to check that everything is looking OK.

The plan is that two hives will enable us to compare and contrast what is going on.    If something goes wrong with one hive,  we may be able to salvage things with the second hive;  it also gives us the option of uniting the two hives if we need to before winter.

Overall it went quite well today.   We planned in advance what we were going to do,  and we talked it through (several times) in some detail.   I'm sure we could and should have done it better, and we will do if we do it again.     The bees were a bit buzzy when we got there and, in fact, I got stung on my leg almost immediately. This was rather unfortunate becase (a) Ow! and (b) that marked me out as a threat and I was soon inundated with bees who were trying to protect their hive. The more they stung, the stronger the threat marker.

As we started to take the hive apart, the bees got a bit more agitated (understandably - we weren't just taking a look, we were actually removing frames of brood).   The bees continued to sting my legs, not just in the original place but all down the front.  Each sting attracted lots more bees.  At one point, i did try to wash the stings off, but this didn't quite go as I had hoped. The unforeseen consequence was that, instead of deterring the bees, all it did was get my trousers wet enough to stick to my legs  - meaning that all subsequent bee stings really got through to my skin (instead of being partly deflected by the folds in my trousers).

Towards the end of the process, I was sure I had a bee inside my jacket.  Presumably in my attempt to avoid the bees, one of them had crept up from underneath.   Turned out I was wrong.  I had three bees inside my suit, all around my face.  Fortunately I managed to not panic for long enough to squash them.  The stings outside my suit were uncomfortable (painful in the spot where I'd been sting over and over again),  but I wasn't particularly frightened.    

Having bees inside my suit was a different matter, and only my inner voice (not the one that was shouting Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow) calmly telling me that if I took the hood off then I'd have more than 3 bees to contend with kept me from disrobing to get them out.

In the end, I was stung on my chest by a fourth bee,  and in upper arm by a fifth.   The ones around my face didn't get to sting me.  My legs have quite a lot of stings, but as I was stung through my trousers, the stings didn't get in as far (or cause as much pain) as they might have done.

When we got home, I sprayed myself with Magicool+ (which has antihistamine in), took an antihistamine tablet, and had a shower.   When I was out of the shower, i couldn't find the antihistamine cream anywhere, so I smeared all my stingy areas with Hydrocortisone cream (thank goodness I had the foresight to discuss bee stings with a pharmacist a couple of weeks ago).
We went  back to the bees a couple of hours later, to see if they were settling down.    Our bee jackets, and our trousers,  were in the wash, so I wore a full bee suit - taking no chances!).  They seemed OK.

DH is extracting the honey as I type.

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