Long live the queen!

From Simon's beekeeping blog. Comments are welcome via email.


Well, I think that must have been the best inspection so far. It's been raining for a few days, but this evening we had a reasonable temperature for an inspection, and no rain, but a fairly strong wind. We also had a lovely autumn sunset, and even the smoker worked reliably.

The hive had been superglued together with propolis, but when I did crack it apart and get inside, I could see that they'd hardly touched the syrup. In fact, the mouldy green tinge on it suggested that it needed to be taken away soon. Under the crownboard, we could see that Dave's plan to insert a new frame in the centre of the five they'd previously occupied had worked — there was comb drawn out there. When the inspection got to that frame and the one before it, we were delighted to see two sides of biscuity capped worker brood, so there must have been tiny eggs last week. The colony will need more than one frame of brood, though, so we decided to insert another frame into the centre. If all goes well, next week we'll have the classic colony structure, now with seven full frames. Beekeepers seem to do this relatively rarely, but our colonies are from late swarms and have no supers. Ordinarily the bees would make a more chimney-shaped colony, using the room in the supers, even though they may not be able to maintain it over winter.

So, we have a laying emergency queen, which Thomas said would likely be booted out next spring when there's time and resources for a proper one to take over. But she was mated and started laying remarkably quickly, and with that brood we at least know that there are new worker bees to support the colony over the coming winter. As well as this, there are the five heavy frames of stores, with the bees building burr comb wherever they could to store even more. By now it was all full of sticky nectar, and when Dave broke it off to leave elsewhere in the hive, the syrup oozed all over the place.

Dave and D had a great inspection of their hive too, with larvae emerging from the abundant brood, a lot of the fondant gone, a possible sighting of the queen. They seem like a generally happy and productive colony, and all of us are really pleased to see things goes so well. We really are learning a lot.

We treated for Varroa today with Apiguard, not using an eke, but by putting the open pack on the crownboard of each colony. I guess we should use an eke for the second treatment. We haven't seen much of a varroa problem at all this year, but we're following a varroa treatment plan anyway. But no mouseguards yet — the diameter of the holes is such that they can scrape the pollen from bees carrying it back to the hive. Also, given the reduction in feeding, the rapid feeder will be coming out and we'll be switching to fondant for winter. Dave and D have been using fondant containing pollen but they'll be switching to plain old fondant soon, so I'll be going the same way. I still have about ten kilograms of sugar in my cupboard, but that'll keep until next year!

Finally, if the coming week is rainy and you're stuck inside, you can watch a five-minute archive film to see how beekeeping was done in 1928 in Pinner (Greater London). The film is silent and features a beekeeping instructor who takes a rather cavalier attitude to things like veils — they are 'deemed unnecessary if a few simple rules are observed'. These do appear to be very chilled-out bees — the instructor can stick his naked arm into the hive and have them sit happily on his arm. He also doesn't use a smoker. Maybe the cigarette dangling from his mouth when he's showing how to manipulate the frames works just as well. The film is from the British Film Institute, who have about half a dozen more short films about beekeeping in their archive.

Queen seen?Queen cellsBroodframefuls of stores# available frames for broodHealthEstimated mitesTemper / docilityFeed given# supers addedWeather
C10✔ 155L80016°C ☀ windy