Feeling quite demoralised after yesterday’s beekeeping session. Things started off well. I spotted one of our new queens, Emma pinned her down in a queen cage and marked her perfectly with a neat blob on her thorax. Yellow as we didn’t have any other colour. She seemed laid back and relaxed, so we have named her Chamomile (all our bees are named after essential oils as Emma is a trained aromatherapist).
Then onto Queen Rose’s hive. We had spotted queen cells there the week before, but had taken them down as we had no equipment to do an artificial swarm. This week there were three capped queen cells in the centre of a frame. They were short and stubby cells, obviously emergency cells drawn out in haste from older uncapped larvae. Looking through the hive, we could see a few uncapped larvae but no eggs. Emma is holding up a frame below – the brood which has hatched has not been replaced by new baby bees. Rose was found and captured in a cage while we thought about what to do.
The hive already made queen cells in May, at which point we split them. So they are not an especially large hive, and it’s late in the season for swarming, making the balance of probabilities more likely that they are trying to supersede (but of course you can never be sure with bees).
Deciding what to do was hard – should we leave the queen cells and let the bees get on with it? Or combine with Chamomile’s hive, as she is a young, prolific queen?
Another beekeeper, Brian, was there and he had been saying earlier that he needed queen cells as one of his hives was queen-less. I was minded to give him the queen cells and Rose and combine Rose’s hive with Chamomile’s. Our nucleus colony, headed up by Queen Chilli, is in urgent need of more space, so I thought we could move Chilli’s colony into Queen Rose’s old brood box to allow them to grow. However, some other beekeepers present thought we’d be better off leaving the colony to supersede themselves.
So it was a tricky decision. Beekeepers rarely agree! In the end we went for combining, but a few things went very wrong. We placed newspaper (from 2008!) on top of Chamomile’s hive and made a few slits in it – all good. The idea being that the newspaper acts as a barrier to give the two colonies time to acclimatise to each other’s smells and accept each other without fighting. They chew through it within a few days.
Then we left the queen cage containing Rose on top of her hive, picked it up and placed it on top of Chamomile’s hive. But in the process of doing that, Rose’s queen cage came open and released her. Which was very bad, as two queens in a colony will fight. We were saving Rose to give to Brian, we really didn’t want her in there with the bees. The process of moving the bees had made the bees testy and we’d ended up with a lot of squashed bees. We decided to abort the mission, put Rose’s hive back where it was and try again on Monday. We still gave the queen cells to Brian.
It’s sad hearing the crunch of squished bees and seeing them unable to get back up, knowing that it’s my fault. I hate it. Hopefully on Monday we’ll have more of an idea what we’re doing and can avoid making all the mistakes. You can read Emma’s version of events and see photos of the stubby queen cells on her post yesterday, ‘What is a swarm cell and what is a supersedure cell?‘
As a cheerier ending, here are some photos from my lunch break this week. The annual Cart Marking ceremony was going on in the Guildhall. Since the fourteenth century or earlier, only licensed and marked carts can be hired out in the City of London. The ceremony takes place in the Guildhall Yard, with the cart owners bringing their vintage trucks, vintage vans, waggons and carriages to be inspected by the Master of the Carmen’s Company and branded or marked.
Lastly, check out my awesome Lego mini figures set, the IT geek and Beegirl were sent to me by the fab @LizzyAB and the Librarian by the awesome @andrewGouw (I am a librarian and my fiance Drew is an IT geek). It’s not possible to buy a particular figure from Lego, they operate a lucky dip system, so I really appreciate being sent them as otherwise I’d have to get them off eBay.