Yesterday I went to see my apprentice ZoeAnn, the one with bees trying yet again to get into her barn. The electric gate was closed as I drove down her drive but fortunately my arrival coincided with somebody leaving, who knew which buttons to press.
I took a quick glance at my nucleus box on the shelf on the lintel over the barn door. Bees were around but they seemed more interested in cracks in the brickwork than in the box. I had timed my arrival well: a chocolate cake was still warm from the oven, only needing a smear of chocolate icing and a scatter of sugary trinkets. ZA was busy ironing her kids’ school shirts and I pointed out how environmentally undesirable is the fashion for flat clothes. They could probably close several power stations if nobody did any ironing and maybe tip the balance to save the world! Daughter Maisie was busy cleaning horse tack so as to look her best when next competing. Son Euan (not sure of his spelling) was more concerned (with guidance from me) in using a catapult made of a forked stick and elastic bands. Can you still get proper catapult elastic?
It was good to have a natter and a catch up with ZoeAnn, whom I hadn’t seen recently. Eventually we went to look at her bees, a National hive in a corner of the neglected kitchen garden. The reason for the inspection was that there is known to be EFB in the area. We waded through long grass to get to the hive. I don’t think she visits very often! It was on a high metal stand with a distinct tilt.
I gave a swift mist of liquid smoke at the entrance then opened up. The top super was nearly empty, but the lower one was heavy with honey, mostly scrummy ivy. The brood box was rather less occupied then one would expect at this time of year. had they swarmed perhaps?
Removal of the nearer frames revealed that mice had been in occupation, not only eating unoccupied comb but also, judging from the leaves etc, nesting. The brood nest was in the centre half dozen frames. Carefully we examined each one for the signs of EFB and found none. It was only after completing the examination that I realised that I hadn’t noticed evidence of the queen being present, my mind having been elsewhere. I started again and ZA spotted eggs before I did (her eyes are younger!) and also she spotted the queen, with an egg coming from her rear end. So they hadn’t swarmed.
So, from where were the bees at the barn? ZA knows of no other hives nearby, only a wild colony in the roof of the kennels, about a mile away. The mystery remains.
We removed the box and ladder from the barn, leaving the bees there to get on with what they were doing, then back to the kitchen to unwind a little more before I departed with a second slice of chocolate cake.