The sun's out and I'm going in
I've held off going into the Beehaus until the weather was warm and sunny. On Tuesday it reached a sweltering 14 degrees Celsius so I decided to go in. The entrances were very active - the right a lot more than the left - and pollen was coming in. This little bee below landed on my knee - look how dusted with yellow pollen she is.
I smoked the bees a bit and went into the left side first. There weren't many bees at all, certainly compared to previous years, and many lying dead on the floor. Pulling out the two frames that had bees on them I located the buckfast queen, that I'd used to requeen the colony last year, on the second frame with only a tiny patch of brood (below).
The right side was a completely different kettle of fish (or should that be bees?). All ten frames were full of bees with brood and pollen. A queen must be there although I didn't spot her. She is unmarked as she is the queen that mated and started laying in July. I forgot to take a photo of the frames but below is the busy entrance, which I'll need to give a bit of a clean.
I closed up and overnight had a think about what I should do. I decided that I should kill the buckfast queen and then unite the two colonies. I'm sad to let her go but I think this is the best course of action especially as I'm quite keen to have one colony going into the season, not least of all as I'm expecting a baby at the end of May and I want something more manageable this year and not have to worry too much about swarming.
Of course there is no guarantee that the bees won't swarm (I noticed a few play cups when going through the colony) so I've ordered a poly hive from Paynes, which will arrive tomorrow. They advise that you paint it with masonry paint and I think a lovely sunny yellow will do nicely.
I'll leave the bees a week for the two colonies to mingle and then will go in mid next week and decide whether an artificial swarm should be carried out. Because of my own imminent arrival, I'd rather do this sooner rather than later. Having a brand new baby and a swarm of bees to contend with will not make for happy times. There is a good article on swarming in this month's BeeCraft magazine with a method of artificial swarming, which I'm going to follow. I'm hoping this tried and tested method will work especially considering my disasters last year.
Also, the 'tree bees' are gone. My friend Nicola, whose hive it is and who is back to beekeeping this year following a break after having her little girl, came to collect them earlier in March. She will add the hive to her apiary, which is in a lovely spot in a farmer's field in Radford Semele. Below are some photos of herself and a fellow beekeeper removing the hive from our garden.