The day, for a change, being fine, I went to Ourganics at Litton Cheney where I have a Top Bar Hive. I took with me a National 4 frame nucleus box with wire mesh stapled across the entrance.
Working from the back of the hive, I removed the two nearest bars. They had no comb as they were harvested only a couple of months ago; however, as I moved forward through the hive, I found that they are doing very well, drawing fresh comb and storing nectar and honey, but not much pollen. There was plenty of healthy looking brood. I found one queen cell in early stages and tried to transfer that bar to the nucleus.It wouldn’t fit! The bar was a metric smidgeon too long so I replaced the bar and scratched an X on it with my hive tool.
A little further forward I found the queen. I think it’s the first time I’ve seen her. I checked my tool belt and saw I had a marking pen so I applied a blob to her thorax. Of course she moved and so it smeared over her wings, which will hamper her somewhat if she tries to swarm. I put her on her comb into the nucleus, followed by some adjacent combs containing brood in all stages and a good block of pollen.
I closed up the gaps in the hive, leaving a 6″ gap at the back as I had no spare bars. I had anticipated this and draped a black plastic sack across to make a temporary cover. I put the lid on the nucleus, trapping, but not squashing, a few bees that were sat on the top of the bars and took the nuc to my car where I wedged it carefully at the rear so as to reduce vibration as far as possible.
The sun was hot so I drove with a window open to prevent them over heating, making my way, guided by my gps, to Tatworth, near Chard in Somerset, where my new apprentice, Sarah Holdsworth, has her nursery: Bee Happy Plants. She was overjoyed to be be-beed! She climbed into my best bee suit, very clean as she had washed it in preparation for attending the anti-pesticide demo in London.
We took the nuc across to my original tbh that I had build from pallet wood in about 1998 and re-built last year. The woodwork isn’t perfect, but the bees will soon re-propolise the gaps . I emphasised to Sarah the importance of slow hand movements when handling bees and then opened the nuc. I withdrew the first comb and was able to show her the various features of the comb and brood. It was the first time she has ever seen a colony opened, although she is obsessed with bees and wrote regularly for a year on bee plants in the BBKA News.
I put that comb in the hive, one bar back from the front, to leave them working space. The next bar had the yellow painted queen. Sarah was a little disappointed in her as she was expecting her to be larger- she has seen too many close-up photos! I put that bar and the two remaining ones in the hive and closed up, accepting the offer of a cup of tea.
We went to her home-cum-office and discussed where she was going to place a deck chair so she could watch the bees at work; how close she could safely strim near the hive and her theoretical (as opposed to practical) beekeeping education. She needs to read bee books and I mentioned mine (co-authored with Dave MacFawn of S.Carolina). She was insistant on buying one, even though it isn’t aimed at absolute beeginners. Her computer was turned on so she googled ‘Outskirts Press’ and typed in: ‘Getting the Best from Your Bees’. Up came the page and, scrolling down, I showed her the virtual button to press which launched a recording of me extolling the book’s virtues.
Sarah didn’t buy direct from Outskirts, even though there is a cheapy option of downloading an E-version for only $5, but instead went to Amazon. They have a new system where they can deliver to a nearby address and Sarah chose that as she isn’t always around when the postman comes.
I drove back to Litton, the boot laden with bee-friendly plants Sarah had kindly given me, getting stuck for several miles behind the very same tractor and trailer as I had on the way there! I replaced the missing bars with the ones I had taken from the other TBH. Job done.