Non est ad astra mollis e terris via – There is no easy way from the earth to the stars. (Seneca)
This post is dedicated to Roy Eastol, a true ‘fen boy,’ and a beekeeping gentleman of many decades of these here parts. Who forgot more about beekeeping than anyone ever knew (although I can’t imagine Roy forgetting much). A hive-maker par excellence, from whom we recently acquired a hive, not that we are going to need it for a third hive or anything. Roy, here’s hoping that where you are heading has only bees that inspect and extract honey themselves. But where would be the fun in that?
Roy, in all his imparting of bee knowledge glory: http://www.cambstimes.co.uk/home/not_much_about_the_birds_but_plenty_of_info_on_the_bees_at_open_day_1_1356907
Remember early spring? When the nervous beekeepers open their hives on the first reasonably (according to the bees) warm day to see what winter hath wrought. The first hive check often results in a list of rushed to-do: split hives, requeen, create artificial swarms, whack on more supers pronto, replace lost hives, treat for wintry diseases. The list goes on. All in the name of creating a productive growing, gathering, and storing season.
However, there does come a time, usually after swarming season and main honey crop where you look at your hives and have to say “they are what they are.” Any measures you take now or within the next month are in the interest of ensuring that the colonies make it through winter: varroa treatments, combining hives, feeding and ensuring that there are enough stores etc. There’ll be more honey, but more and more of it will be for the bees and less for us.
We have never been ones for early intervention to prop up growth and honey production. We basically leave them to get on with things and will only intervene if they are in danger of harm. According to that description, we most definitely fit into the ‘hobbyist beekeeping’ category, graciously allowing new beekeepers to profit from the exponential growth of our hives and allowing the bees to profit from their own gathering and production.
This is not meant as a criticism of other methods of beekeeping, merely an explanation as to why we looked at our hives -one looking for all the world as if it were on body-building steroids, one a moderately stronger version of its former self, and the other, well still just a nuc- on Saturday, near the end of July and said: “they are what they are.”
A one-bee egg-laying machine (the garage bees)
We looked at them first because they threw off the swarms this summer (3 we think) and yet from the outside look as if no one has ever left home. We made sure the smoker was puffing away because these bees (and their ancestors) have been the crankiest.
Super: three frames full, but with size of colony should be more. Why aren’t there more bees and honey in the super?
Brood: before we even took the super off we could hear the brood box actually throbbing with bees. That combined with the number coming out of the front scared us a little. The excluder was clogged with propolis. With such a large colony, why so few bees in the super?
Brood box filled with stores and 7-8 frames of brood. And lots of bees. You would never know this hive had been through so many swarms. Eyeballing them they all looked healthy, no wing problems, no varroa we could see. Just not getting into the super.
So I took a controversial decision: we removed the excluder. We also indulged in a little ‘pinching’ the honey- uncapping a bit of what was in the super (learned from bbka) to entice them up to investigate. We’ll see. They definitely need to use the space given their size. And as we will be doing varroa in a couple of weeks time we can check on their reaction.
The hive that is not a hive, but is really just a nuc…
Is really just a nuc The frames are not filled beyond those which were originally in the nuc. Some brood, maybe a frame or two. This leads us to think that our last swarm did come from them, not the garage bees. Which would indicate that the new queen is barely a month old….
Main hive (original hive)
This one is the one we were worried about back in May as it did not look like thriving coming out of winter. It has definitely come on with 5 frames of brood and some stores, but it is not necessarily out of the concerned zone.
We probably will combine the two hives in autumn as it seems rather doubtful either will make it through the winter.
Dreaming of Swarms
I had written a draft of this post directly after the inspection a week or so ago. Friday night for some reason I dreamt that there was a swarm in the garden, although it wasn’t clear from which hive it had emerged. “Guess I’ll have to update the post,” my dream self sighed in resignation….
Into the pollen and nectar abyss…