My bees can’t or won’t read the books! At this time of year they should be reducing their brood nests and packing the surrounding area with stores for the approaching winter. Drones should be a memory, having been chucked out over a month ago.
What do I find? In the first hive I looked at this afternoon in a wild flower meadow in a holiday camp in sunny Weymouth there is almost wall to wall brood with not much room for stores, which are all in the super. There were drones present and even some sealed drone brood. As they are so good tempered I decided to leave them their super and maybe take my share of honey in the spring.
Next door to it the hive has two fairly heavy supers, mainly with just top bars to facilitate the production of honey in the comb. I put those aside, removed the queen excluder and found the brood box to be empty! On looking more closely at the combs in the supers I found brood. My notes clearly state that I put the queen below the excluder ages ago so she must either have squoze through or else gone outside, walked up the hive and used an upper entrance. I’m using an old Snelgrove board as a crown board and one of the gates is missing, giving a top entrance. I removed the excluder and hope that the queen will find her own way down to the part of the hive the books say she should occupy.
I left Weymouth and drove 5 miles to Broadmayne where I have a solitary hive on the edge of woodland belonging to a big house. I placed it there as a bait hive and it struck, so I have no idea of these bees’ history. Sometimes they can be bad tempered I have found. It was so today. Last time I looked, a couple of months ago, they had needed a super so I had added one. They have ignored it. I started going though the brood box, starting from the rear as the combs are the ‘warm way’. It was on about frame 3 that I got my first sting. By frame 6 I had received a score or more, still without seeing any brood although I did notice an old, emerged, queen cell. I gave them best, closed up and retreated. They followed me through 100 yards of undulating woodland. They scored a zero on the record card for temper, indicating that ‘They saw me off!’. It isn’t often that I record anything less than a 5 or 5+, for temper. If they survive the winter I shall requeen them as soon as I can from a more amenable stock.
On to my hives in the Council yard. I no longer have a key to the gate so I have to wriggle through a hole in the fence, which is a nuisance. I had put clearer boards on both hives yesterday and so was able to remove the supers, one from the small hive and three from the bigger one, relatively uneventfully except that there were still more bees in the supers than is usual more than 26 hours after the clearer boards has been added. I left a super on the taller hive as it, too, had a brood box full of brood with not much in the way of stores. That hive had drones also.
It was when I was carrying the supers across to the gate that I remembered that about this time of year 2 years ago I was wearing a blood pressure monitor for 24 hours. When the Doctor printed out the graph, the line was mostly within expected limits but there were 2 peaks: one was when I was about to go into the dentist’s and the other was when I was hefting heavy supers as I was today in the same place. Maybe I ought to play with Robin Dartington’s idea of half sized supers.
These supers just slid under the gate and are now sat, bees and all, in the back of my car. I shall drive back to the vicinity of the apiary in the morning and release them to fly home.
In the meantime, my hands are still swelling from my stinging and my watch strap is getting tighter. I’m using this as an excuse to take extra alcohol to ensure a good night’s sleep!