Tuesday, 26 July 2011

The Bees have their own ideas

Carefully researched and discussed Plan A...became Plan B after listening to a talk on wintering bees, which then became Plan C after the Q&A session yielded yet more information...  Plan C was reuniting the two hives into one,  a process we wanted to start today by doing some stuff on HIve 1,  and complete tomorrow by doing some stuff on HIve 2 early in the day and then combining the two hives in the evening.   Regrettably, the Bees had neither read any of the textbooks, nor attended the information session.

Busy morning as we had our own chooks to do, and the chooks on a neighbouring allotment for a holidaying friend.  And we needed to do our Hive 1 stuff, and get clear and home in time for DH to have a work related meeting.

Things started well.  I went to do neighbours chickens, DH went to do ours.  I then carried the bee stuff - including new frames and a plastic box to put in the frames we planned to remove -  down to our allotment...blah blah blah blah blah.

Suited up, smoker lit (we've been using rolled corrugated cardboard for the last few visits, and it has been excellent.  No more smoker refusing to light or going out.).    First signs weren't promising.  Very very few bees at the entrance.  DH smoked the entrance, and stood back for a moment.

I brought up the empty plastic box and the box of frames and stood them out of the way.   Lid off, cover off,  quick smoke,  and the air was thick with bees.  Lots and lots of noise,  a bit of pinging.  Frame 1 was one of the original old frames that needed removing.  I brough over the plastic box, we stood the frame in.  Then we worked through the frames looking to see what was on each one, and trimming the bottom (where necessary) in preparation for tomorrow's Uniting.

Frame 2 (now Frame 1): Stores; F3 (nF2): Stores & pollen; F4 (nF3): Stores;  F5 (nF4) Eggs and stores.  Drone Cells. Sorry, eggs?  eggs?  Handed the magnifying glass over to DH (excellent purchase, would say it is a "must have" for all newbies),  and pronounced there were definitely eggs.    I speculated. Did that mean one of the Workers had started laying??  This does happen and, if it does,  it's a problem.  It's impossible to work out who the culprit is,  and you can't risk uniting the colonies if that's what's happening.

Brood.  DH can also see brood.    I scratched my head, metaphorically speaking. Clearly I couldn't scratch it, I had my bee suit on.      I didn't think that a worker laying eggs actually raised brood.    And the cells seemed to be drone cells. Was it a drone laying Queen?  Bother, bother, bother, bother.

We continued the inspection.  Frames 6,7 (now 5,6) all stores.   Frame 8 (nF7) was the half frame. Drawn out.  Frames 9,10 were old frames and had stores.   We took Frames 9 and 10, a couple of hefty shakes to remove the bees,  and put them in the plastic box, and inserted 3 new frames at that end of the hive.   (With hindsight, I think we should have spaced them out a bit, but it's too late now).

We then put the hive back together, and then attempted to get the remaining bees of the three removed frames.   We then put the lid on, and I moved the box away, without having any following bees.

Quick peep inside Hive 2 - just through the top - told us that they hadn't even started to draw out the supers,  so we'll remove those tomorrow.

Back to the car, without any angry followers,  and we spent the journey home working out what to do.
  • If there is a laying Queen, even if she's laying drone eggs,  we can't reunite the hives (unless we find her and kill her)
  • If there is a Worker bee laying, then we can't risk uniting the hives
  • It doesn't look like uniting the hives is going to be an option now, not until the Spring.
So, we're on to plan D now.  Which is to do an inspection of Hive 2 tomorrow, as planned,  and look at removing old frames and replacing with new ones (We can then do honey extraction tomorrow evening).  Whether we remove any more will depend on where the brood is laid.    This will need to be the last time we take frames off the hives.
We need to go back into Hive 1 (sometime in the next week) to see what is happening there,  to reconfirm that we will not be uniting the two colonies.

Also need to decide when to put the feed on for them.  We've bought some Ambrosia (not the rice, obviously), which is a really easy food for them to use as it is already 80% inverted.  It means a lot less work for the bees than converting home made sugar syrup into useable stores.

I'm off to find out a bit more about workers laying eggs now...

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