The story so far… Emma and I started the year with one hive, headed up by Queen Myrtle. We then bought one colony, were very kindly given another, and split the colony we bought into three as swarm control in May. That makes five hives! Inspecting has become quite different. Although we turn up at 2pm, often we hardly get time for a cup of tea and suddenly it’s 4.30, everyone is leaving and we’re still finishing off our inspections.
Hectic for sure. The good news is, the Bailey comb exchange that seemed to go on forever is very nearly completed in Myrtle’s hive. Looking back at my blog posts, in ‘Exams over – and the Bailey comb exchange begins…‘ we started the Bailey comb exchange on 26th March. They just seemed to draw out the new brood comb very slowly, even though we fed sugar syrup. Also we probably weren’t as on the ball with hurrying them on as usual, because we were distracted by all the new hives.
To finish off the comb exchange, last week we moved the old bottom box with now-empty frames (apart from some honey stores). We put Myrtle and her brood on the hive floor, a super above to provide empty space, and then the old bottom box on top. I did some slashes with my hive tool in the remaining stores in the old bottom box, and hoped that the space provided by the super would encourage the bees to think the box was not part of their colony, rob it out and move the honey downstairs. We can then burn up the old frames without wasting any honey.
Confused yet? It’s proving tricky to explain! Above is a photo of the bees crowding excitedly round the slashes I made.
Being bees, of course our cunning plan did not go entirely to plan. Instead the ladies used their week to build a small empire of beautiful white comb in the empty space provided by the super. We went about removing this before they built a whole new city with gates barred to beekeepers.
I made the mistake of trying to break the comb off with a hive tool and my bare hands (after smoking most of the bees off). As the comb was very new and the weather very hot, it went all floppy and I accidentally squashed some unfortunate bees, getting a couple of sore stings on my fingers.
This was all the comb removed and placed on my cake tin lid. A few of us tried drinking from it- they hadn’t capped it yet so it wasn’t honey but still runny sweet nectar, but that tastes good too! The wax itself is very chewy and doesn’t break down no matter how much you chew it, so I tend to spit it out.
In-between sorting out this fiasco we also inspected our other hives, some pics are below.
Emma showing beginner beekeeper Michael Caine a frame.
Honey in the corner. Some of the beginners were finding it hard to tell the difference between capped brood and capped honey, something I remember I struggled with in the beginning too. I tried to explain that the colour and texture is different. Healthy capped brood is usually digestive biscuit type colour, whereas capped honey will be whiter – though can appear darker if it’s old and the cappings have been walked over a lot.
Above, capped brood in the centre surrounded by nectar and pollen stores. Below, mixed pollen and nectar. Pollen can throw beginners too, just because it comes in so many different colours.
And here is a queen on capped brood. She will try to run around the sides and bottom of the frame to get out of the light as you hold it up.
I find trying to teach people at the apiary very hard. I get distracted by what I’m doing with the bees, and sometimes I get a bit clumsy with the bees when people are asking questions and I’m using part of my brain on trying to answer them.
Also there’s often a very mixed group in terms of knowledge, as some beginners have been coming for several months and done a course, whereas others have literally just turned up that day. I know I’m not as good at explaining things as some of the other beekeepers are, I find it easier to write than talk as writing gives me time to think about what I’m trying to communicate. Ah well, we all have different talents!