Easter inspections; a new queen emerges

There was a lot going on at the apiary on Saturday. Naive people might think that on a bank holiday Easter weekend the apiary would be quiet. Not so when there is tea to be drunk, hot cross buns to be eaten and even some beekeeping to do!

Hot cross buns

Hot cross buns

These were my first ever attempt at hot cross buns. They looked fine but the texture was more like that of a weapon than a squishy doughy bun.

I left the buns on the table and watched Jonesie inspect his hive. Here’s a chunk of drone comb he sliced off to check for varroa. He’ll put it in his freezer and then break it open to look for mites once it’s frozen. There’s something very appealing about the chunkiness of drone comb, the regular golden bumps. The workers were reluctant to leave it.

Drone comb

Drone comb

In the foreground below is a strange little bee Jonesie found in his hive. She was a honeybee, but so bedraggled and black that it was hard to recognise her as one. Her sisters seemed to be trying to clean her up – could she have fallen in some kind of oily substance? Poor wee thing.

EDIT: Thanks to commenters westernwilson and thomas73640, who have identified the black bee as probably suffering from chronic bee paralysis virus (CBPV). This is a virus associated with the varroa mite, which probably helps transfer it between bees. It is also associated with crowded hives, as close contact between overcrowded bees breaks hairs from the cuticle, allowing CBPV to spread from diseased bees to healthy bees via their exposed epidermal cytoplasm.

Wet bee?

Below you can see a new hive that has landed in the apiary. It belongs to Brian, who has taken an old abandoned top-bar hive in the apiary and made it his own. I can’t wait to see what bees do with it. To the left is a bait hive he’s made, sitting on the top of the main hive. Here you can see Brian explaining the hive to Andy Pedley. Andy is always full of enthusiasm and told Brian that even if the hive is a complete disaster, at least it will be very entertaining and a great experiment.

Brian and Andy

Andy (l) and Brian (r)

Tom inspected his hive, which last week he suspected was queen-less. He had put a frame of eggs and larvae from Jonesie’s hive in there last week to see if the bees made a replacement queen for themselves. There were no new queen cells made – but suddenly Tom said ‘There she is!’ and pointed at a little virgin queen walking around a frame. Mysteriously, there was no sign of any queen cell she might have emerged from – did the workers remove all evidence of it?

Virgin queen

Virgin queen

You need sharp eyes to spot a virgin. At the moment she’s about the same size as the workers, but her abdomen is more pointed at the end. Some sunshine is forecast at the end of next week, so hopefully she can get out and mate then. Most of the hives have begun to produce drones now.

“There’s always summat takes you by surprise with bees” Tom said. “I open them up expecting them to have made a queen cell and instead I find a virgin running around.” That’s the joy of bees!

As for our bees, Myrtle and Chilli are doing well, although Chilli’s workers have drawn out about three frames more than Myrtle’s. Myrtle is our favourite queen as she and her mother, grandma and great-grandma etc before her have produced the gentlest of bees. I hope her colony will be ok!

Chamomile’s colony was decidedly narky and kept going for me, which I’m not used to with our bees. It could have been the weather as it was chillier than I would have liked, so I gave up on any ideas of starting the Bailey comb change off this week. I noted more perforated cappings and exposed dead larvae in a small patch of brood.

Chamomile’s bees are on a double brood box and I’d really like to get them down onto a single to make them easier to inspect for queen cells etc. If Myrtle produces any queen cells I would feel tempted to replace Chamomile with a new princess from Myrtle. I dislike getting rid of queens, but I don’t like inspecting bees that try to sting me either.

When I got back from inspecting all the hot cross buns bar one had disappeared, so hopefully they weren’t as bad as I thought, although they did get called “hot rock buns”. Andy left me a comment on my Facebook page afterwards to say:

“They were delicious, thank you so much …. The beekeepers are just teasing … And it might be that they think by “challenging” you, you will bring more the next week. We might allow you a week or two off but bring double when you get back from honeymoon, because we will all be starving!”

Yep, I will be getting married on 10th May, so don’t expect many posts in May!

About Emily Scott

I am a UK beekeeper living in Ealing, west London. I have been keeping bees in the Ealing Beekeepers Association’s local apiary since 2008 and created this blog as a record for myself of my various beekeeping related disasters and - hopefully - future successes. Busy taking the British Beekeeping Association module exams too!
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45 Responses to Easter inspections; a new queen emerges

  1. You kept the most exciting news to the end. Hope you have explained it all to the bees. I believe my great grandmama felt strongly about telling the bees about family matters. Hence when Gran died, my Mum was terribly distressed and bewailing who would tell the bees and I, aged about 8, could just look on at the strange sight of my mother perplexed and upset. That picture is so etched on my mind I can call it up at will as clearly as if it were yesterday. In fact, it was 56 years ago.
    Have a lovely wedding and honeymoon.
    A long term beekeeper I know explained that shortly after he got married, he decided he just had to check on the bees before he went to bed. When he returned and it was dark and his young wife had already retired, he undressed in the dark and joined her. You’ve guessed it. He didn’t realise he’d brought home a couple of bees who vented their anger at being trapped. His wife is now allergic to bee stings but the marriage has lasted and he still keeps bees.

    Like

    • Emily Heath says:

      Thanks. You are right, I should tell the bees next time I see them. I wonder what they would make of marriage, they are single women.

      Love your story about the beekeeper – hilarious that even on his wedding night he was worrying about the bees!

      Like

  2. beenurse says:

    I love it that you always combine beekeeping with tea and cakes! Congratulations on your upcoming marriage.

    Like

  3. Rachel says:

    Congratulations on your impending wedding! I love your blog! Thanks!

    Like

  4. Mei says:

    Congratulations! What lovely news 🙂

    Like

  5. Grower says:

    Congratulations on your upcoming wedding! May your marriage be as sweet as honey and relatively free of stings.

    Like

  6. Reblogged this on Linda's wildlife garden and commented:
    lovely post thank you for sharing

    Like

  7. Anna says:

    That’s so exciting! Congratulations and I hope your honeymoon lives up to its sweet name.

    Like

  8. this is a message for you that I just got by reblogging Wow! Great photos. Glad to hear all’s well. Be interesting to see how the top bar hive develops. We just populated our second one yesterday.
    from Liz at www/ lizard100blog.wordpress.com

    Like

  9. Congratulations Emily! Have a lovely wedding, and try to slow down and savour the day. I was run off my feet too, too much! Take lots of photos! As for your black, greasy bee, it is likely the victim of Chronic Bee Paralysis Virus. I have seen these bees in the hives from time to time, and remove them (which the bees will themselves, but I figure the faster it is done, the less chance of others being infected). I think this virus is one of the many gifts brought to us courtesy of Varroa mites.

    Like

    • Emily Heath says:

      Thanks – I shall try to be as lazy and laid back as possible.

      Cheers also for the reminder about CBPV. I have read about it in the past, but never seen a bee suffering from it before. I’ve let Jonesie know as it was his bee.

      Like

  10. disperser says:

    Lots of good information, and I’ll throw in my best wishes along with the others with regard to the upcoming nuptials.

    Like

  11. daveloveless says:

    I’m doing my first top-bar this year as well! Looking forward to it. My dad has done top bars for three years now and really enjoyed it. They are a bit harder from what I hear, but I’m up for the experience.

    I had another question for you. Here in the US we do lots of packages to replace dead hives. I realized I’ve never heard you talk about packages in the UK, and I wondered if that is a US thing. Care to enlighten us?

    Like

    • Emily Heath says:

      Good luck with your topbar! I’m sure it will be great experience.

      I don’t talk about packages because I’ve never bought one. I started in 2008 with a hive which a beekeeper who was downsizing very generously gave me, and since then have kept that colony going. Last year Emma and I bought a colony and hive from a beekeeper who was moving away.

      I think buying bees in a nuc box is more common here, rather than shaking the bees from a package into your own box. Or waiting to catch a swarm. Also buying in queens from countries like New Zealand is fairly common.

      I’d rather not buy bees sent long distances personally as I think it must be stressful for them and also they won’t be adapted to the local climate.

      Like

      • daveloveless says:

        I agree with that. Most of our bees come out of California, and the difference in climate is probably shocking for the bees, especially the winters. I have one of my original hives from when I started, and I do my best to split that hive each year to keep that line going. That queen has been incredible!

        My first hives were nucs I bought locally, but since then I’ve gone packages when I’ve needed to. I don’t like it, but nucs here are super pricey (as high as $200 vs $80 for a package).

        Oh, and I don’t know how I missed the note on your upcoming marriage! Congratulations! You’ll have to throw in some pictures.

        Like

  12. thomas73640 says:

    Hi Emily, the black bee in jonsies hive is a honey bee and probably suffering with chronic bee paralysis virus or CBPV you see it from time to time and apparently becoming more common. Don’t think one bee is anything to worry about. Last year the bee inspector noticed one bee in one of my hives and said it’s something they are worried about as it appears to be showing up more frequently so perhaps on the increase. Oops that’s a miserable post. Still the new apiary is coming on well. 🙂

    Like

    • Emily Heath says:

      Thanks Tom. I should have thought of CBPV as I’ve read a lot about it, but I find I remember things much better when I see things for myself. That’s the first like that I’ve ever seen. Sent an email to Jonesie to let him know.

      Like

      • thomas73640 says:

        Don’t think you will see it very often as with most things the bees generally remove any sick bees before we notice anything is wrong.
        So will we see you again before the big day as I have a wedding present for you, nothing to great just something I have made and apologies to Drew as its beekeeping related

        Like

        • Emily Heath says:

          Yes and hopefully not too many there in the first place as all in the apiary do varroa treatments.

          You shouldn’t have made a present! That is very kind thanks. Not going to be at the apiary this weekend coming as it’s my hen do, but will be there on Sat 3rd as I’m doing a training session for the beginners.

          Like

      • Llyr says:

        thanks for letting me know. i didn’t see any today!
        will keep an eye out.

        Like

  13. Nice crown! And HCBs, one of the best things about Easter… Happy Beeing. RH

    Like

  14. Congratulations! I hope everything is wonderful for your wedding. And I would add to your observation that tea and cakes are the secret to success in most endeavors, including perhaps marriage. 😉

    Like

  15. Congratulations! We wish you a lovely wedding and a happy life together.

    Like

  16. Lots happening at the apiary again but the wedding is the big news. Wishing you both happiness on the wedding day and in the future. I’m really looking forward to seeing the photographs and if the bees show up at the wedding. Amelia

    Like

    • Emily Heath says:

      I think I’ve mentioned the wedding a couple of times on here before, but have been trying not to be a wedding bore. There will definitely be bees in one shape or other at the wedding 🙂

      Like

  17. Very nice post but for sure the best of all is that you are getting married.

    I hope the best for both. Love is in the air! 😉

    Like

  18. I like the little crown!

    Like

  19. meemsnyc says:

    It is so exciting when you open a hive that you think is Queenless and then you see a virgin Queen. I love seeing that they have raised one from uncapped brood! Nicely done.

    Like

  20. alderandash says:

    Many congratulations! Hope you have a wonderful day, that the sun shines and that not too many bees decide to take part!

    Like

  21. Don’t forget to tell the bees the good news!

    Always looking forward to your updates – keeps me on my toes in terms of what processes I should be using!

    Also – launched some honey labelsthis month. So keeping busy myself.

    Like

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