One of the Ealing beekeepers, Andy Pedley, kindly gave me a lift to a BBKA module exam revision session held in Harrow yesterday – the exam is next week, eek! The lady running it, Jo Telfer, was really nice and went through some of the Module 6 past questions with me. She got us all to sit and try writing our answers to one of the essay style questions for half an hour, which was very helpful. She pointed out that timing is very important and we mustn’t be distracted by spending too long on questions not worth many points. Also writing essay plans in the margins is a good idea so examiners can see what you would have written about if you run out of time.
Went down the Perivale apiary afterwards to check on my bees. They were as busy as ever, the fondant Pat gave them three weeks ago was nearly completely finished and the foragers returning to the hive had all sorts of different colours in their pollen baskets. Here’s some pics…
If you look carefully at the bees below you can see the different pollen colours, from bright yellow on the mouseguard to oranges and browns on the bees higher up. Also the difference in the colour of individual bees, the madam flying in on the far left has quite a amber upper abdomen whereas many of the others are much darker, which suggests they probably had different drone fathers.
After taking this photo I removed the mouseguard, as Jo told me she’s just taken hers off as it’s safe to do so now and it brushes some of the pollen off the bees as they come back in.
As if that wasn’t enough beekeeping activity for the day, I then went on to the monthly training session which the Ealing beekeepers have. We were mainly talking about the shook swarm we’re doing at the apiary next week, after which Pat gave us a talk on queen rearing.
Shook swarm notes
- The Beebase website has a free downloadable shook-swarm factsheet which is worth bringing with us and following step-by-step
- Bees on new comb do better than bees on old comb, which is why we do a shook swarm or Bailey comb exchange at the apiary every spring
- We need to shake each colony into a hive we have prepared with a open mesh floor, a queen excluder on top of the floor, a brood box with eleven new frames (if a National hive) and a dummy board, a crown board and a roof
- Also need 2-1 spring strength sugar syrup ready, made from white granulated cane sugar
- After finding the queen and shaking bees into their new hive need to keep coming back to replace the sugar syrup, which they will sometimes consume in a day
- Do on a nice warm day, preferably 15C but 12C upwards would do
- Can cut out any honey stores in brood before burning the frames if you want to make mead or honey marmalade
- The queen should be laying again within a week, after which you can take the queen excluder away
- Can remove first 1-2 frames of brood the queen produces if you want to destroy as much varroa as possible, but this will delay your colony’s development
So next Saturday will be busy – Module 6 Honeybee Behaviour exam in the morning, followed by a Shook swarm with an unmarked queen in the afternoon if the weather’s warm enough. Don’t know which I’m more nervous about!