Friday, June 18, 2010

Trying (and so far failing) to entice a wild colony living in a tree into a hive...

Since the last post, we have picked up a HUGE swarm from someone's hedge, and hopefully they've settled down now and will start bringing in nectar. In the mean time though, we still haven't managed to save that colony in the tree...any ideas, please let us know!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Another Swarm!

Got a call this afternoon about a swarm in our village (actually from a lady who lives in what used to be the old church hall where I did ballet classes when I was very little - nice to see the old place again!) so went to check it out on our way home.

Inside Anne's beautiful little walled garden we found a cloud of bees swirling and buzzing around, 2 - 3 metres in the air and about 4 metres wide. It looked like a good sized swarm! As we watched they settled on the hive-shaped compost bin - it obviously looked like home! After a nice natter with Anne (she very kindly gave me 4 courgette plants when I said mine had been eaten - chickens and/or slugs to blame. As she said, "we gardeners must stick together! It's so nice to be able to share plants and know-how with people - perhaps the best bit about gardening/beekeeping), Dad put a nuc above them, did a bit of scooping, and we watched as they walked up and into the nuc, the cloud dwindling as they went. Quite an amazing sight, even though I've seen them walking up before - this time it was in a very beautiful setting.

Went back just now. They were very quiet. Nuc heavy with bees, hardly a bee in sight outside. We just covered them up in a sheet and away we went! We had a sneaky listen as we put them in the car though, through the ventilation holes - the low thrumming buzz of a calm hive. Not so quiet after the drive home, but they'll be fine when tomorrow we take them to their new home :D

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Bees & Beans

Yesterday we visited the bees.

Our friend Paul is a new beekeeper and now has one excellent hive going strong. When we arrived he had just captured another swarm which will be going in his Top Bar Hive. I've never seen one in the flesh before, and it was really interesting. The hive is certainly beautiful, and it will be interesting to see how it works out.

As far as our own bees are concerned, the swarm we collected that didn't seem to have a queen did have a queen, but there was still no brood (although they were working really hard - might even get some lovely honey of them this year). Judging by the length of her abdomen she wasn't a virgin queen, which means that she must have been the old queen from her original colony and had just grown old and run out of juice. So we squished her, closed up the hive and left them till the evening.
In the evening, we went to visit our other hives, where we had just carried out an artificial swarm. The idea was to donate a couple of queen cells from the artificial swarm to the queenless colony. However when we got there, we found an emerged queen cell, and that the other cells had been torn down! So our artificial swarm has given us a new queen, and as the weather has been good hopefully she will have mated.

^ Emerged and demolished queen cells

So we had to turn to plan B. This plan will take longer, but if necessary we can donate capped brood to the queenless colony to boost their numbers until the new queen gets going. We took a frame of eggs from our original colony (the Wall colony - now building up beautifully after the artificial swarm) and, trying not to joggle the frame around too much or to get it too cool, raced back to the other apiary and stuck it in the queenless hive. By the time we got there the queenless hive were quite agitated, and had obviously noticed they had no queen. But thankfully the frame of eggs went in smoothly, and so hopefully they will be able to grow one of those into an emergency queen. Of course, emergency queens aren't always as good as planned queens, but she'll be better than nothing and will give us time to make up plan C if we have to! Now we'll just leave them for a fortnight, come back and hopefully there will be an emerged queen cell, followed by eggs...

Today we spent the morning and early afternoon planting out the beans at last! Poppy also planted her brussels sprouts, I planted my squashes, and the greenhouse is full of chillis, salads and cucumbers. So after weeks of the poor plants wasting away in pots, they are at last in some beautiful compost-laden soil and perked up almost immediately after planting! Some of the lingua di fuoco (borlotti) beans already have their pretty purple flowers on them, and most of the beans are already happily spiralling up their supporting canes. So I'm hoping for a beautiful sunny summer and excellent crops of haricots and honey!

^ beans planted a while ago, and planted today :)

Saturday, June 5, 2010