I went to Bockhampton this morning to help my apprentice, Caps, to make an artificial swarm on the hive she looks after at Thomas Hardy the third’s birthplace. The weather wasn’t ideal, being only about 54 degrees with intermittent light rain. We had an audience of tourists, only a few feet away, looking over the fence and taking photos. I suggested that they get out of the flight line and not to flap if a bee bumped into them. Nobody was stung.
Caps had supered the hive since last we had examined it, in order to delay swarming. The bees were generally calm and non aggressive, however I noticed that they were continually batting into Caps’ veil but not mine. She had been rowing with and upset by a chap from the RAC who couldn’t/wouldn’t fix her car when I arrived and was visibly upset but calmed down under the influence of the bees. I wondered at first whether her emotion had generated pheromones that upset the bees. She told me she wasn’t wearing perfume.
The brood box was very full of bees and it wasn’t until we were patiently going through it for the third time that we found the queen. Her mark has just about worn off and needs replacing.I placed her on the frame upon which we found her in a nucleus box I had brought along for the purpose. Then we moved all the brood frames to the new hive, including one with a small queen cell that wasn’t far developed. I transferred the queen to a new, empty, comb and put it in the original brood box next to a comb with food but no brood. The supers went back on.
We’ll take a look next week to see if it would be possible/sensible to take a nucleus from the new hive. If we do, it will go to Hardy’s last home, a couple of miles away at Mack’s Gate. Mr Mack was the gatekeeper at the turnpike and died in 1852.
When we had finished playing with the bees, we finally fathomed out why the bees kept trying to get at Caps: she had washed her hair before coming out and so it was probably something in the shampoo.
Back in the cottage, over coffee, note making and planning, Caps asked my advice about a super of set honey she was having trouble in scraping off the foundation. I suggested warming it. How hot? That set me writing her a list of notable temperatures in beekeeping. Here it is. All temperatures are in Fahrenheit.
Cold – chipping and grinding propolis.
57 – bees will give priority to clustering on the brood to keeping it warm although there may also be some fliers.
94 – brood temperature.
97 – wax softens and comb weakens.
105 – a good temperature for straining honey.
120 – this temperature kills honey, turning it effectively into golden syrup.
160 – melting point of wax.