Last week was the most beautiful spring weather, and like every other beekeeper our thoughts turned to the first inspection. What with the death of one of our two hives and other beekeepers reporting not only swarm preparation but also actual swarms, we approached our garage bees with some trepidation. They had been giving off all the signals of a healthy thriving colony: lots of activity around the hive, lots of pollen collecting etc. But my husband and I had also noticed what we thought looked like bee poo on our cars. Not that there was much around the hive itself, but why was there so much on the cars that it was noticeable to us? So trepidation it was….
First, we open it up
Things looked in pretty good shape upon cracking open the hive (propolis…). The super had bees in it and although somewhat empty of actual honey, quite a few of the cells were glistening with nectar. I take that as a good sign from bees usually a little reluctant to move up into supers in any sort of industrious way.
Also, no brood so the queen had not wandered up into the super. We usually remove our queen excluder during the winter and are always prepared for this type of result. So far, after a good few winters, we have never had queens laying in supers.
And much to our surprise….
Now, you have to understand that the garage bees have always been the weaker of the two hives going into and coming out of winter. So, we got a bit of a surprise when we started examining the brood box. Firstly, no sign of the fondant we had placed in the hive a month or so ago. Not even the plastic wrap (!). Secondly, although they were noisy, and flouncing about in an irritated manner, they were on the whole responding well to the smoke, diving down into the box instead of flying up at us. Curiouser and curiouser….
But nothing prepared us for the state of the frames: chock full of brood, larvae, bees about to hatch, brood prepared for capping etc. A full eight frames had brood on them. Usually, we are lucky to see brood spattered across four or five frames.
They weren’t the prettiest frames nor the most perfect brood pattern, but it was quite clear to me that she is a strong queen, still a few months shy of her first birthday, and her colony are ably supporting her.
I have to say that such enthusiastic laying was a little unsettling. What are they about? It would seem all that swarming last summer was their way of breeding an increasingly better queen for themselves. But why would they do that? Hadn’t they been happy with their usual lazy queens?
Invasion of the bee snatchers
It’s not just that when we smoked them, instead of deciding they had had enough as we progressed through the frames and getting pissed off at us, they politely filed outside and waited on the face of the hive for us to finish. It’s also that WE FOUND NO EVIDENCE OF AN IMMINENT SWARM! No queen cells, not even any fooling around with queen cups. And another thing: no drone brood. They were acting like normal, productive, happy-with-their-digs bees.
In other words, not like any bee we ever kept.
Not like our bees at all.
I just have a few questions:
Who are they? Where did they come from? And what do they want?