We were really lucky today that Andy Pedley was able to come down and help us. As well as being incredibly experienced he has such a kind and patient manner. I felt better as soon as he started going through our hive. I was also lucky because Drew has just got a new lens and came down to take photos. Stand by for an exponentially better standard of photography than you normally see here.
Andy used tweezers to pull out suspicious looking larvae. The larvae he found were mostly drones. After pulling them out he exposed their guts with the tweezers – they were yellow, which he told us is a good sign. The yellow comes from the pollen in their food. For hygiene reasons each larvae inspected was discarded into the smoker.
There were a few larvae which were a bit slimey and gooey, which Andy didn’t like the look of so much, so he tested for EFB using a kit just in case.
One larvae at a time should be shaken in the testing fluid, then a pipette is used to extract some of the liquid and place a couple of drops on the yellow testing device.
It works like a pregnancy kit – you wait three minutes, and then either one or two blue lines appear. One line indicates a negative result, two lines a positive. Andy did a few tests on different larvae and they all came back with one line. Yay!
Andy’s conclusion – the dead brood had been chilled, probably because Rosemary had become a drone-layer. The colony had become over stretched and there were not enough nurse bees to look after them properly. They’re not in great shape, but there’s no bacterial disease.
Andy took pity on Emma and me and dispatched Rosemary for us in water with a bit of washing up liquid in. She could no longer be any good to our colony without the ability to lay worker eggs. Here’s a last shot of her, proboscis out. It looks like she’s missing a segment of her right front leg in this photo, but I checked back through the other photos and it’s just the angle of the shot.
With Rosemary gone, we were able to take a frame of eggs & young larvae from our healthy hive and transfer it into the struggling hive. The idea is to provide the bees with young worker larvae which they can draw out into a replacement queen cell.
Andy selecting a suitable brood frame from Lavender’s hive. I love the light shining through. This is fresh new wax the bees have drawn out in the last three weeks.
Even some of the bees flying around the frame are in focus! Trust me, that is not easy. Go Drew.
Me brushing bees off the frame Andy had selected. It had a gorgeously even brood pattern. Apart from some nectar nearly every cell had an egg or larvae in. After I had brushed most of them off Andy shook the rest back into Lavender’s hive.
Before putting the frame into Rosemary’s old hive, Andy did something I would never have thought of. He selected a couple of tiny 1-2 day old larvae and made a space beneath their cells by pressing down on the wax with his finger. He said this would encourage the workers to draw the larvae out into queen cells. Top tip!
Andy making space for a queen cell with his finger. Next weekend we will need to check if they’ve made queen cells. If not, we will either need to find a replacement queen from somewhere or combine the bees with Lavender’s hive.
Back in Lavender’s hive, we needed to carry out the next step of the Bailey comb exchange, which we started three weeks ago. They have drawn out about five frames in the top brood box and Lavender has been laying well up there.
First we started trying to locate her – not easy, as her marking had worn off. But Emma managed to spot her pretty quickly, and we marked her again. A queen excluder was put between the two brood boxes, and Lavender released in the top box. The brood below will hatch out in the next 21 days, leaving the colony with brood in the top box only. We can then remove and destroy the old brood frames below, leaving the colony with a fresh set of brood frames.
While this was going on, Pat, who you can see in the photo above, was busy shook-swarming someone else’s bees the day before he leaves on holiday to Australia and New Zealand for the next six weeks. Now that’s dedication! You can see Emma in the background, somehow managing to make a bee suit look stylish. I think the pink accessories help.
Thanks to Andy, a very successful day’s beekeeping! What a relief.