In my last post on Queen Neroli, our new Jubilee Queen, we had just combined our two hives, because one of the hives was weak and queenless. Yesterday we checked up on how the combining process had gone. Would our bees have chewed through the thin layer of newspaper and become friends?
At first we were worried, because the bees in the top box seemed very moody. They flew out at us, buzzing loudly.What had got them so bad tempered?
Worse was to come when we lifted the top box out. We had put the queen excluder between the two boxes to weight the paper down before putting the top box on, but we forgot this meant the big, beefy drones couldn’t get out. Several had got stuck trying to get through and had died in the process. That explained why angry bees had flown out at us. Many of them must have been drones deprived of the opportunity to do their business or chase virgin queens for a whole week, poor things.
Casualties of beekeeper silliness
With the help of Albert, one of the other Ealing beekeepers, Emma and I thought about what to do for a while. We had been worried by all the angry bees and were wondering if this meant the two colonies didn’t get on. Eventually we reasoned that the problem must just have been the queen excluder trapping the drones, so removed this and the newspaper. We put an empty super box between the two brood boxes, in the hope that the space will encourage the bees to think of the honey stores above as separate from the colony, so that they go up and rob the honey, storing it in the bottom brood box. We can then come along and remove the top brood box and burn up the old frames.
Once this was done, we looked at our new bees. Yes, new bees! Andy and Pat have kindly given us a nuc from Osterley Park. The deal is that they’re our bees, but in return it’ll be an apiary training hive and beginner Ealing beekeepers will be having a go at inspecting them each week. Sounds extremely fair to me 🙂
Our beautiful new bees even came “gift-wrapped”! The mesh is a travelling screen designed to allow ventilation, held down with drawing pins. The orange travel strap holds the hive together in transit.
Emma photographing our new bees
They were in a five frame nuc and had filled up every inch with comb, so we transferred them to a spare hive we had waiting, before they started getting ideas of swarming! Osterley bees have a reputation for being particularly vicious, but these ladies were surprisingly calm. Maybe they were easing us in gently. We put the first five frames in nearest to the entrance, gave them an extra frame of foundation to start drawing out, then two dummy boards to keep them warm during the forecast bad weather, followed by more foundation frames to fill in the remaining space.
As Emma moved the frames across she spotted the queen, like Neroli also a bright orange beauty! We have named her Ginger – I may have to make some Ginger beer next week to celebrate – this recipe sounds very good: http://notdabblinginnormal.wordpress.com/2012/05/26/make-your-own-ginger-beer.