Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Best for Bees?

Due to inspect Hive 2 today.  As usual, talked through plans over coffee before we left. Less usual (but not exactly unusual) we didn't see eye to eye over some of the details.  Didn't quite resolve it before we left, but it turned out to be academic anyway. 

Whil I did the chooks, DH used handshears to cut down the grass that had grown up in front of the two hives.   He was quickly set upon by bees (from Hive 1, we presumed), and moved to the back of the chicken area, with the bees in tow.  The bees stayed with him for some time,  while I finished skipping out the youngsters' shed, filling up the feeders, scrubbing and refilling the drinkers.

I then lit the smoker, suited up,  and we went on to inspect Hive 2.   Our main priority was to see if we really did have eggs (and hopefully brood, by now).  The Girls from Hive 2 were very well tempered, so we were hopeful that they did have a Queen.   We had purchased a suitable magnifying glass after our last inspection,  and this was a real boon.  Yes, we definitely have eggs and brood so we definitely have a Queen. Yay!

Most of the brood box though is full of stores (honey and pollen), and the Queen won't have much room to lay.  We had expected that the bees would have started to move the stores up into the Supers,  but this hasn't happened.   We discussed whether it was harder work for the bees to move honey fron the brood frames up into the super, or whether it was harder for them to draw out a ew brood frame.  We were wondering whether to take out a couple of frames of stores and put some empty frames in.  We want to do whatever is less work for the Girls (all worker bees are female) but neither of us knew the answer.   The stores weren't capped,  so weren't really ready for extracting... so we decided to leave things as they were and ask the question of someone more experienced.

We then had to decide what to do about Hive 1, which had been the source of our disagreement.   We decided to do a brief inspection to confirm what we thought we knew, that there was no Queen.  We were also prepared to clean up some of the frames ready for uniting the two hives, but we weren't planning to so any reuniting today.

As soon as we opened the hive, we knew we had no Queen.  The bees were bad tempered, although not in the "call Michael Caine" category.  We pulled out a couple of frames and found only stores.    There were a lot of bees still, which ruled out one of the two methods of reuniting the hive (where you simply remove the hive and leave the bees to beg for admittance into the neighbouring hive).   We put the hive back together, and moved away. No bees followed us.

That's when I found that my bee trousers (which are at least one size too big) had slipped below my bottom.  I imagine that's why the bees didn't follow, they were probably too busy laughing.   I should point out that I had jeans on underneath my bee trousers, so I wasn't mooning at the bees.

Back at home I've got my bee book out, have asked a question on a bee forum, and I'm working out our next plan.

I think it will be:
  1. possibly take a couple of frames out of hive 2 and replace with foundation frames, if the response is that this is easier on the bees than moving their stores 
  2. unite hives by putting the brood box (which is full of stores) from Hive 1 on to the top of HIve 2. (separating by newspaper etc etc etc) 
  3. One week later, go back into the hives and rearrange so that we have stores on top and brood below, with the stores above the brood.  This will need to be two brood boxes for now.   Add in more empty frames to replace any frames we take away
  4. probably leave it like that until Spring.
I'm sure DH and I will discuss this to death.

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