Wednesday, 29 June 2011

It's Been a While...........

.... and there has been a lot happening!

Both of the hives have behaved in exactly the same way! After the split on May 6th I left the hives alone (apart from an occasional peep through the observation window) for 32 days. I expected to see evidence of a laying queen by then, but there was nothing other than agitated bees, one of whom decided that they no longer liked our postman and stung him on the ear!

That colony had to be moved before we would have mail delivered..... no bills? Tempting! My neighbours offered me a space in a corner of their field If I was willing to clear it of weeds and nettles. An afternoon of strimming and a morning of covering with landscaping fabric and bark chips and the hive was moved! Actually I think this is a better spot for the bees as it offers more shelter from the wind.

Advice was sought from the good folk on the Biobees forum. All agreed, queenless hives! I started to search for replacement queens. None could be found locally, so the net was cast further afield via Google. The most promising was from a bee keeper on the Wirral, which would include a round trip of 160 miles. At the eleventh hour, the deal fell through, the viability of the queens could not be guaranteed.

I was getting concerned that by the time queens were located it may be too late for the colonies to support the next generation of brood. Plan B? Find two nucleus colonies.

The day before the 240 mile round trip to Shropshire armed with my credit card, I thought it wise to check the hives again. 41 days after the split, still no sign of a laying queen in either hive, but no laying worker either. Suspicious!

Still, I bit the bullet and collected the nucs, arriving home mid evening I placed the nuc boxes on top of the hives they were to supplement. The weather that week-end wasn't good enough for a chop'n'crop, so they were quickly moved into borrowed national brood boxes, with top-bars placed in the space left. Next week-end the weather was good, so a quick check through the first hive for laying workers before the chop'n'crop and there are capped cells....... capped worker cells...... 49 days after the split that was three days after a swarm (when the queen cells would have been capped. OK, leave them for now and on to the other hive. Yes, more capped queen cells! These girls were slow to start laying!!!

So now I have four functioning colonies! How do I explain that to SWMBO? Happily I knew of someone nearby who wants to get a colony for a top-bar hive, so a quick phone call and a deal was struck! They are still in a National box on top of a top-bar hive at the moment. We had hoped to get them installed this week-end, but the weather is dire again.

My neighbours are happy to have a second colony in their garden, so I now have three. Result!!