Up in the attic

Hello! I hope everyone had a good Midsummer. Today I did an inspection, after several weeks of leaving them alone during critical periods in re-establishing each colony. They are doing well, but I'll go into more detail later.

Dan sent me a link about 'tooting and quacking' duets by queens in the hive. Apparently, a queen will quack to signal she is ready to emerge, after which she will toot to tell the workers to stop the other queens from emerging and fighting with her.

The second news item is that my goddaughter Ⓤ has responded to another art commission. We have a phone number which we distribute to friends, neighbours and local farmers which will route the call to us in the event of an issue with the colonies, notice of spraying, especially with glyphosate herbicides or insecticides, or a swarm sighting near our apiary. (However, for general swarm sightings in the area I recommend contacting Burnham Beekeepers and/or reporting the swarm to the BBKA.) Speaking of spraying, we have recently registered on BeeConnected to receive spraying notifications ( see also the article at NFU online), so we'll see how that goes.

Anyway, this number is configured as a Ring Group, calling first us beekeepers, then our families, then helpers, with the first person to pick up being the one to take the call. If callers wait twenty or thirty seconds for the call to be answered, chances are the call will reach someone who can help.

The number is available to anyone who asks, but we wanted to put up a poster at the apiary site in case people were having problems with our bees. We felt it could be improved with some graphical content, and so Ⓤ produced this:

A honey bee on the telephone.
A honey bee on the telephone.

The poster will be produced soon and we'll take another picture of it in situ. It will be excellent.

Since the last update we've been busy building a new hive. We wanted to have one all ready for if there was another swarm. Ⓑ and I worked on it together until we had a full hive, and the other day I just made up the DN4 frames to go inside.

Ⓑ works on the brood body of a hive.
Ⓑ works on the brood body of a hive.

It was really nice to spend a few afternoons in the garage, with the radio on, just hammering together hives and chatting about stuff.

So, onto the inspection, and my first inspection with two colonies. We are numbering them in order of when we first collected them, so the new one being the first swarm collected, it is Colony 3, and Dave and Ⓓ's, collected a few days later, is Colony 4.

The June Gap is on — a time during which the long grasses and dandelions cause a reduction in the amount of nectar available to the bees. I suppose with the pandemic lockdown giving nature more of a chance this year, it might not be so bad, but this is the time of year we need to pay particular attention to stores.

Colony 1 is looking pretty good, really. There are about three frames of stores in the brood box and three frames in the super, which is slowly but surely being drawn out. Inside the brood box, there were little eggs, pupae, larvae, and capped brood. There were queen cells — maybe eight, three of which were at the top of the frame — but none of them were particularly developed and none of them had anything inside. I don't generally cut queen cells, especially not ones like this. The bees seemed happy and relaxed, with no sign of disease.

Over to Colony 3 in the nuc. Dave had suspected that the nuc was pretty much full and would need to be upgraded to a full hive. Opening the nuc up, it turned out that this wasn't the case. In fact, they'd filled out none of the frames of foundation. Why? Because they had decided to make their own natural comb in the roof of the nuc:

Colony 3 forwent the provided foundation to pursue their own comb-building goals.
Colony 3 forwent the provided foundation to pursue their own comb-building goals.

It's great they've stuck around, but this is rather hard to inspect! I replaced the roof — very carefully — but without the crownboard with the small hole in it to try to get them to use the foundation. I moved their nuc about 30cm to make room for the new hive, and decided to leave them while I considered what to do. I might opt to remove the comb and put it in empty frames with threads and rubber bands to encourage them to build within the frames. But maybe I'll just wait and see what they do over the next couple of days.

I left each colony a kilogram of ApiCandy to help with the June Gap, and left them alone. All seems well.

Colony ID
Queen seen?
Queen cells
Framefuls of stores
Frames available for brood
Estimated mites
Temper / docility
Feed given
Treatment given
Supers added
C18 cups✔ 6f e3f2f brood, 9f super9020°C ☀
C3⅓ roof 😀920°C ☀