When I walked into the apiary, Albert said to me “I hear you’ve gone commercial”. He pointed past his shoulder, where a row of three new hives had been set up next to our existing three, all six neatly labelled “Emily and Emma”. Emma had been busy!
Our new empire consists of the first six hives you see on the left. The newer hives are obvious as they are all light and unstained. Emma said some of our bees came out to check ’em out, plus a queen bumblebee was nosing around! She’s blogged about her hard work at ‘A string of warm days and daffodils‘, accompanied by some beautiful cheery photos of the apiary and daffodils.
We are now ready to do our comb changes. I must remember to mark our new frames with the month and date, plus 1-10 so that we know which order they started off in. This makes it harder to put them back in the wrong order when inspecting. Must also remember to, er, make them. Kinda haven’t done that yet.
During tea and cake chatting I met a very enthusiastic new beekeeper. He had only just visited the apiary for the first time, but had already joined the association, bought a smoker and bought a bee suit. He also plans to get two to three hives soon! I was a bit worried that he’s rushing into things too quickly, but he said his grandfather was a beekeeper so perhaps he’s picked up a few tips from him.
“Who’s happy being up a ladder?” asked John Chapple. Tom volunteered himself; the reason was that our Chairman Clare Vernon has a neighbour with bees living in their tree. The house is currently being done up and the neighbour may not be happy to move back in with the bees still there. The most amazing thing is that these bees aren’t nesting in a hole but just in comb hanging from the tree.
Tom, Clare, Albert and I went to have a look so that Tom could make plans to remove the bees. On the concrete path leading up to the garden were some unmoving bees, which probably landed there and then got too cold to fly off again. They were the darkest honeybees I’ve ever seen, black in every single abdomen segment. I placed two dead ones in my pocket to study at home.
When we got inside the garden (the builders let us in) I gasped when I saw the comb up the tree at the end. It was magnificent, seven combs graduated in size hanging high up. The end comb was marked brown so had obviously contained brood at some point. They arrived as a swarm last summer; Clare said that when the colony was at its largest the comb was completely hidden and she could just see a ball of bees in the tree. There were a few bees entering the comb but not many, so Tom thought maybe it’s just being robbed out now – that would be sad if such a hardy colony has died out.
On our way out I picked up a black bee which was moving slightly on the concrete path and blew hot air on her. She soon perked up and began walking around on my hand. I left her on a plant. When I got home I removed the two dead bees from my pocket, only to find to my horror that they had come alive again in the warmth. Sadly one had stung my coat and had her sting hanging out, while the other had two damaged legs. I had to put them out of their misery – I won’t assume that unmoving bees are dead again. Poor wee things.