Continued Adventures in Beekeeping

It’s been a while since I last posted anything about my bees (actually, it’s been a  while since I last posted anything!) and quite a lot has happened.

After loosing the swarm I found that the bees were building queen cells all over the place so, in a bit of a panic, I decided to put a frame with a queen cell into a nuc and leave another in the hive. Best case I was thinking I’d gain a colony, worst I’d lose a queen but have a back up just in case.

Well, a month on and what I seem to have is a nuc with no queen and three queen cells – not sure if I have a laying worker in there and they are trying to raise a queen from unfertilised eggs or if the frame I put in had new eggs and they are trying to raise a queen from one of those. It’s something I should have checked when I put the frame in but being a complete novice I didn’t make note of this and now can’t remember – it’s all trial and error here and I’m learning a lot about the value of making good inspection notes.

The original hive also showed no signs of a queen. I couldn’t find her at all, no eggs, no stores, no brood, very angry bees – everything pointed to them being queenless. So, these lucky bees are being combined with my good hive.

When I say good hive, I mean the hive with a present queen – marked so I know she’s in there. She hadn’t started laying well when the other bees swarmed and I was worried that her two frames were just going to dwindle away and I was going to lose the colony. But, she has pulled out the stops, is laying like an egg machine, has brood in all stages, her house bees are building new comb and things seem to be going well.

Queen bee, marked with yellow paint for easy identification.
Queen bee, marked with yellow paint for easy identification.

I’ve read up on combining hives and there seem to be as many opinions on the best way to do this as there are beekeepers. So, this is what I have done; I wanted to have the new colony on the frame stand that the failing colony was on, so this became my bottom box – I think it’s more usual to put the dwindling colony on top but that would have meant far too much faffing about and lifting so I’ve gone the other way round. I placed the sports pages of The Times on top of the brood box (I think the bees will want to know the cricket scores) and then put the brood box containing the happy colony on top, popped on the roof and crossed my fingers.

Bee on comb with larvae
You can make out the uncapped larvae in the comb under this bee.

It’s been nearly a week and the weather has been pretty yuck, so I have no idea what is going on inside the two brood boxes. In an ideal world all the bees have made friends, accepted Queen Yellow Spot as their new leader and are making a mega colony in preparation for the heather harvest. In reality there are a few dead bees on the landing board, I’m hoping there aren’t millions of casualties littered on the hive floor but will have to wait for a warm day before I can peek in.

Meanwhile in the nuc..

Looking through the crown board into the Nuc of Bees
Looking through the crown board into the Nuc of Bees

I’m feeding light syrup as they have no stores, and waiting to see if the queen cells in there come to anything. It’s been five days since I last looked but as I mentioned before the weather has stopped me interfering. Which is probably a good thing – the bees will do what they need to and don’t want me lifting the roof off their house all the time.

If they have produced a new queen then they can stay in the Nuc until they run out of space, by then I should have an empty brood box I can move them to. If they don’t produce a new queen I will try and combine them with the other colony.

And to think, until I did my beekeeping course I thought you kept some bees in a box and took out honey every now and then. How wrong I was!


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