A Cautionary Tale

6/01/2017 05:01:00 pm 0 Comments

Our bee inspection last week took place in thirty degree heat and proved rather eventful!

The first thing we noticed when we arrived were lots of bees hanging from the front of one of Chris’s hives.

We assumed they were just trying to keep cool and decided to leave them be while we got on with inspecting our WBCs. 

The first WBC appeared to have eggs but we couldn’t see the queen. We then noticed a very small cluster of bees on the floor of the apiary two metres away and incredibly one of these turned out to be our queen, just crawling around on the ground. I quickly scooped her up and re-introduced her to the hive. As her wings were clipped, she was prevented from being able to fly away with the swarm and the number of bees still present in the hive indicates that the swarm returned without her. What a lucky find. It’s now a case of watching this space, hoping she settles back in OK.

Our other WBC was the hive we feared may have lost the virgin queen that we introduced a few weeks ago. The inspection this week showed no real progress, no eggs present, but lots of stores, with little or no brood. We did see two large and healthy queen cups so hopefully they will hatch a new queen soon and the hive can get back on track.

We noticed that the cluster of bees around Chris' hive had disappeared from the hive and moved to a nearby tree!

There were lots and lots of bees flying around the apiary too but Chris thought that they might return to the hive after an hour or so, so we carried on with the rest of our inspections.

So to the special measures hive. The Bailey comb change is now nearly complete. We opened the hive and sure enough there were plentiful supplies of honey in the two old brood boxes which were so heavy we could barely lift them.

When we got down to the new brood box I was really happy to see that all of the brood frames had been drawn with comb, with lots of eggs laid and the queen present too. There were also some very pretty pollen stores.

Great news! We added a new super box, with frames and finally a crown board with bee escapes on them, followed by the old brood boxes on top. This will allow the bees from the old brood boxes to travel down into the new brood and super, but not go back up again, meaning we can remove the old brood boxes next time we inspect. Hopefully this will be the end of the bailey comb change and provide our first honey of the year!

As we finished, we turned around to see an enormous amount of bees in the air as the cluster in the tree disappeared. It was fascinating to watch the bees in the process of moving and see how quickly the swarm dissipated.

Back over to Chris' hives and underneath one, on the floor, we noticed another very small cluster. Unbelievably I once again found another queen, just mooching around underneath the hive on the floor. Again I quickly scooped her up and put her back into the hive. Chris will come to take a look over the next few days and see what to do next.

After packing up Elliot and I finished the visit to the farm by talking a walk over to the Sainfoin field which is now in full flower - truly a sight to behold - alive with bees!

Due to all the comings and goings at the hives, we’d been at the apiary all afternoon, in our bee suits in the blazing sunshine, and as I took my suit off I was dive-bombed and stung on my neck, just behind my ear. After several minutes had passed I began to feel very light-headed, and my face was swelling significantly (not a pretty sight). If I’m honest this was quite a scary experience. I’ve been stung before on other parts of the body and suffered no adverse effects so this was a shock. I felt very nauseous and passed out briefly. Elliot called an ambulance and the paramedics explained that the combination of heat stroke (dehydration) and bee venom in such a sensitive area can be dangerous, so my advice to fellow beekeepers is to stay as cool as possible on these warm summer days and make sure you drink plenty of water while working in the heat of the day. It’s common sense advice really but easily forgotten when you are concentrating on other things!

Elliot & I trying to be responsible!


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