I felt so lucky to be heading down to the apiary in glorious heat today. I know a lot of people don’t like this hot weather, and I’m sorry about that, but I have to admit I love it. We’ll have plenty of rain, wind, frost and storms ahead in the autumn and winter for you cold weather lovers I’m sure.
Last week I had a photo of Brian’s clever top-bar hive design in my post ‘Bees, honey, flowers, cake and a party‘. Today you can see him cutting into the hive like a cake. What he’s doing here is cutting down around the edges where the comb has been fixed to the hive walls, so he can lift the comb out and inspect it. The little cluster of bees you can see on top are gathered round the space where the bees go up into the super, which he’s lifted off before inspecting.
I love the shape of these combs, like bunting or flags. The bottom corner of the triangle wibbled as he lifted each one out. As top-bar hive combs don’t usually have a wooden bottom and sides, they tend to be more delicate than National hive combs. However people who are good at wood working can choose to provide them with a hollow frame tailored to the size of their top-bar hive, to make the comb sturdier.
Unfortunately there was no sign of eggs or uncapped brood in the colony. Just plenty of honey, pollen and some capped brood.
Here Brian is blowing on the bees to try and move them out of the way so he can check for eggs. He didn’t find any but he could give them eggs from another top-bar hive he has.
By the way all the time he was inspecting we had some live African style tribal music coming from the Mencap centre next door. It had a lot of rhythmic drumming that made me want to dance. Who knows what effect it had on the bees, I was concerned it might whip them up into a frenzy but bee business continued as usual.
This is a photo I took of myself in my bee suit before inspecting our four hives. Afterwards I was far too tired and sweaty to be taking any photos. I’m using surgical style gloves at the moment but they get uncomfortably sticky and clingy very quickly. It feels great to rip them off and inspect bare handed, except then my hands get covered with yellow propolis. Also the feeling of the bees on my bare hands is a little distracting.
All was well inside our new queen Pepper’s hive, with lots of eggs. They have drawn out a few of their super frames. I don’t expect to harvest anything from that hive, but am hopeful they might complete the super by late autumn with the ivy flow, giving them good winter stores. Chili’s hive is in a pretty similar situation.
Worryingly I spotted a poor bee with useless shrivelled slivers of wings in Chamomile’s colony, a sign of deformed wing virus (associated with varroa). I thought I also saw a mite on a drone’s back. And in Chili’s colony I saw workers chasing a black and shiny hairless worker – a symptom of chronic bee paralysis virus (CBPV), also associated with varroa. We shall be doing Apiguard treatment on all our colonies in August.
Last week Emma wrote about our favourite colony, previously headed up by Queen Myrtle, in her post Pink queens and a swarm? Sadly it seems our most gentle queen is no more. As the colony had produced queen cells, I am desperately hoping one of her daughters is in there and will begin laying soon. There was no sign of eggs this week, so I tried putting a frame of eggs from Chamomile’s hive in there, as a test. If they make queen cells from it, that suggests they’re queen-less. If not, hopefully all is well and a daughter of Myrtle will mate and begin laying soon.
My reason for particularly liking Myrtle’s bees are that they are the direct descendants of a colony which was kindly given to me and another Emily by a Ealing beekeeper named Ann Fox six years ago. Since then the colony has made itself new queens most years, but they are all ancestors of that original colony and queen. They’re lovely bees – absolutely nothing phases them – and have been very productive this year too. So fingers crossed Myrtle’s genes live on.