You may remember from my last post, ‘Surrounded by bees: a tale of four swarms‘ that I had a swarm which was determined to stay high up in a tree. They had been there a few weeks and had been busy building yellow comb.
To my relief and surprise, they’ve come down! They must have been craving shelter after all the rain they’ve endured, as this time they landed under a thick bush, less than two feet up from the floor. Below you can see my father-in-law Tom cutting away some of the greenery so we could get at them.
It was an easy collect. Tom held a nucleus box underneath, while I brushed the bees in. I took a frame of eggs and honey from another hive so that they have brood pheromone and food in there to help persuade them to stay. In the photo below most of the bees had already been brushed in. I left the nuc on the ground; the bees gathered round the entrance and started busily fanning their Nasonov glands, telling the few bees left on the branch to come on down. Within about half an hour they had all gone in.
A couple of the other swarms I hived in nuc boxes this month have not done very well, I think they must have been headed up by virgins which got eaten by birds/didn’t manage to mate/suffered some other unknown fate. In both cases a few bees were clustered round the frames I’d given them and up in the feeder, but they hadn’t managed to draw out any new comb and there was no sign of eggs.
In contrast the colony which landed on the wall with a mated queen is booming. Since I hived them two weeks ago on 6th May they have completely drawn out every frame in the nuc and the queen is laying with gusto.
Normally I would now transfer them to a full sized brood box (with the help of dummy boards to keep them warm while they expand). However I’m thinking about overwintering them in the nuc so that I can sell the nuc in the spring. Do any more experienced beekeepers have any thoughts on what would be the best course of action? Is there more of a market for nucs or for full sized colonies?
Our foxgloves are out – they’re beautiful and attracting long-tongued bumble bees, which buzz pollinate them, vibrating their bodies inside to shake their pollen out. Dave Goulson’s blog on ‘The best garden flowers for bees‘ says they are a favourite with B. hortorum and B. pascuorum (the garden bumblebee and the common carder bee). Often you can hear the bee inside the foxglove but not see it!
Our bed of lambs ear sits next to the foxgloves. It is growing enthusiastically and I am excited for when it flowers later in the summer and attracts buzzy solitary bees. I have also planted some borage and sunflowers and leaves are emerging!