Friday, April 25, 2014

An Easter bonus from the bees

Easter Monday we managed to get out to check on some of the rest of the hives. One of the challenges of having so many now is that inspections - especially if something unexpected happens - can take quite some time. First thing was to take a look at the swarm we collected the other day. Although we didn't want to disturb them by taking the lid off, I wanted to see if there was any sign of activity at the front.

Swarm settling in

Oh yes, they were busy! It's really exciting to see them so active and I'm looking forward to getting a proper look at them next time. After that, it was on to proper inspections of the other hives at this site.

Disposing of an unwanted guest

Bees have a very orderly society; each bee has its role. These two are performing their duties and evicting a wax moth grub. I know they do this but I've never seen it before, and neither had Chris. When they got the grub to the edge one of the bees flew off with it and dropped it unceremoniously on the ground. Fabulous to see!

This is our most established site and the bees here do really well. As evidenced by this hive below, which was busily producing queen cells ready to swarm. There's a high probability that this is where the swarm on Good Friday came from. (Queen cells point downwards, Chris is holding the frame upside down here).

Queen cells

So, a queen cell means an artificial swarm into a nuc. But wait, what's this? More queen cells?

More queen cells

This hive did a similar thing last year, and we had lots of swarms to deal with. This year we are determined to manage the situation better and so instead of leaving these beautiful queen cells for the bees to deal with (often the bees will destroy unwanted cells, or a new queen will go round and destroy her rivals) we have pre-empted things by splitting this hive in to four. It's a bit more of a risk but we are still aiming to increase our hive count rather than maximise honey production.

Eating the honey

These girls had plenty of space on the other side of the hive but had decided instead to build a load of wild comb in the gap here. (Yes, we should have filled it but we didn't have a dummy board). So when we lifted the lid, we broke the comb and the bees were straight in there to get their honey back. 

Pollen packed in

And here, you can see that one of the cells was filled with pollen. When bees store pollen they head-butt it into the cells and you can see that there are layers of different colours and type of pollen. Isn't it beautiful?!

I'm hoping to document more of our beekeeping adventures here on the blog this year, especially as we expand our number of hives. The bees are endlessly fascinating and I hope you think so too.

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