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Beekeeping, Books, Brood, Honey Bees, Swarms

What happens in a leaderless state?

This is what we were pondering a few weeks back (running about a couple of weeks behind with these posts). The good news is we seem to have come through the swarm season 2 for 4: 2 caught and rehomed, 2 that got away.

The bad news appears to be that swarms have stopped because there is nothing more to give.  Oh yes, there are bees going in and out of the hive. There just doesn’t seem to be a lot if any pollen going in.  And there are a lot of drones. In fact, at certain times of the day, we almost think there is another swarm. But no, it’s the drones coming and going.

We usually like to give them a bit of space after swarming as they are a bit vulnerable, what with the desertion, the depletion of stores, and the new queen (s) and the conflicts and questions over timely mating that brings.  For things to settle down, for the queen to be mated and start laying, we knew it could take a good couple few weeks. But with the outward signs not looking positive after a little over two weeks since the last swarm, we decided to have a look.

Hive Examination, 9 June 2015

Well, there's plenty to eat at least....

Well, there’s plenty to eat at least….

Garage Hive: There are plenty of stores and nectar. These frames must be the work of the hive before the swarming started. The bees themselves are healthy looking, docile even. The hive itself does not seem overly loaded with drones. This sense of there being a lot of them must come from their buzzing about on the landing board, and all deciding to leave the hive at the same time. We were not able to pick out any eggs, larvae or brood. Neither is a queen visible. Now it’s been 17 days since last swarm, so given weather conditions we could still have some time before the queen starts laying

Looking a bit desolate....

Looking a bit desolate….

Nucleus–The third swarm from the garage hive is doing well. They were the swarm from 17 May so they have had time to adjust to their new surroundings and have a mated and laying queen. Indeed, there are some hansdome frames with nice brood pattern. So, I am hoping, if we give the garage bees another week we might start seeing some action….

Things have grown up around the nuc a bit in the last couple of weeks....

Things have grown up around the nuc a bit in the last couple of weeks….

They are still working on drawing out the comb in the other frames, so we will let them get on with things before thinking about moving them to a proper hive.

The jungle doesn't seem to have deterred the queen from her, um, holidays....

The jungle doesn’t seem to have deterred the queen from her, um, holidays….

So we waited a few weeks before inspecting again. The next post will reveal the results as well as an interesting call-out for bees in an air-conditioning unit….

Our Roman legacy

I have been reading an interesting book on beekeeping and ancient civilizations:   The World History of Beekeeping and Honey Hunting  by Ethel Eva Crane (a great name!), Routledge, 2013.

For those wondering what the law of bee ownership was or is:

“Roman law concerning bees constitute another continuing legacy. In Roman civil law, bees were wild animals, animalia libera, or fera naturae; they were not tamed or domesticated animals, mansuetae naturae. Bees in a hive, however, were the property of the hive’s owner, and their unauthorized removal was theft. Bees that flew out from a hive as a swarm belonged to the beekeeper as long as thye remained within his sight. The beekeeper was allowed to go on to a neighbour’s land to collect his swarm, although he had to make good any damage done to the neighbour’s property. But once the bees were out of the beekeeper’s sight they were deemed to have reverted to their original wild state.”


8 thoughts on “What happens in a leaderless state?

  1. Roman bee law sounds pretty similar to our laws today! Hope all turns out well with your bees.

    Posted by Emily Scott | June 28, 2015, 5:47 pm
  2. When I first saw your title I thought it was a comment on the current political situation?

    Posted by philipstrange | June 29, 2015, 1:34 pm
  3. Good luck with the new queen getting mated. I think you still have time. I’m in the same boat, wondering if my Bee-atrice log hive has a queen. The number of bees at the entrance (and looking through the observation window) is very low. There is capped honey, but very few bees. I can’t inspect the inside of the log hive, so I’ve just got to let nature take it’s course.
    That frame of honey you’re holding sure looks good! 🙂

    Posted by solarbeez | June 30, 2015, 5:27 am
    • Thanks, they have always worked it out in the past. Of course, it doesn’t prevent me from worrying. We thought it was some nice looking honey. But the way they are so down on their luck right now we didn’t have the heart to take it from them.

      Posted by mylatinnotebook | June 30, 2015, 9:01 am
  4. If you pull honey, when do you do it? And what’s the latest date that you would take honey from the hive(s)?

    Posted by Tina | June 30, 2015, 2:48 pm
    • Very generally speaking, here in the UK at least two points in summer–May/June after the rapeseed crop dies back, and late July/beginning of August. Rapeseed is a big crop around here, especially where I am in East Anglia, so we go by that farming cycle.

      Posted by mylatinnotebook | June 30, 2015, 6:02 pm

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