I went down to Litton to check on my TBH there.  A month ago, after being so prosperous that they cast 2 swarms and yet had plenty of stores, they were somehow queenless.  Maybe a swallow had snapped up the new queen on her mating flight.  I had taken some very young brood from the nearby hive containing the first swarm and transferred it the the parent colony in the hope that they would produce a new queen and carry on with their usual prosperity.

No such luck. I stood by the entrance and watched bees going to and fro, none of which were carrying pollen, so I kitted up and opened them.  There were very few bees and very little in the way of stores.  They had been heavily laden a month ago so somebody with robber bees will have a very good crop!  I saw that they had attempted to rear a new queen from the patches of brood that I had inserted, but obviously without success.

I have had bees at that permacultural holding; ‘Ourganics’ for about 15 years without a break.  I think that it is maybe a little late to re-stock at this stage of the year so I shall take the opportunity to harvest wax and propolis and re-stock next year from my TBH at Tatworth with bees from the same strain. That hive has already stocked 2 others, one for apprentice Sarah and the other for an experimental TBH which Sarah is checking daily for mite drop and evidence of hygienic behaviour.  I haven’t heard that she has found any mites at all yet.

On to Berwick Manor a couple of miles away where I have, in the orchard, a TBH given me by a friend who is moving away.  I stocked it with one of the swarms from Litton but, when I last checked it, a month ago, it appeared as if the queen was a drone layer as there was no worker brood but plenty of small cells with drone cappings.  I expected them to have dwindled and on the point of death.  I was surprised to see that there was a great deal of activity at the entrance, so again I kitted up and opened them.  They have 5 combs of normally capped worker brood and a couple of combs of honey and they are working at producing more combs.

This hive is of trapezoidal shape and originally had an entrance in the side.  I blocked that off and drilled a hole at the end.  I don’t like the shape of trapezoidal combs. They are unnatural as the bees prefer to build a catenary shape; also, being deeper, there is more adverse leverage when the comb is removed, making it more essential to ensure that the comb is held vertically.  On the other hand, it didn’t cost me anything!


About chrissladesbeeblog

I have been keeping bees since 1978 and currently have about a dozen hives. I am a member of the BBKA where for many years I represented Dorset at the Annual Delegates' Meeting. I am the co-author (with Dave MacFawn of of S. Carolina) of "Getting the Best from Your Bees" and am working on a book of my own poems : "Bee People".
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  1. Hello Chris, there is some news from your experimental hive. One live varroa mite! it was on its back kicking its legs presumably trying to right itself (but as you can imagine, having such small stumpy legs and being the shape of a sickle cell, it had probably been there all night). So your yellow bees are doing well. I was quite worried that they were robbing my two weak daughter colonies…and may have done so, but hopefully without long-term damage. I have decided to build my Finnish poly hive upwards with holes between two top bars (like your supers on the mother colony). Also I have got some larch wood cut now to make more (four more) of you super design TBH’s which I think are perfect to use for us and bees alike. I think you should give them a name…how about THE SLADE TBH? And I would like to treat the wood like you did with wax and a hot iron. A lesson please! Are you back from Gormanston?
    Sarah 🙂

  2. Hi Sarah. Is this your first sight of a mite? Did you use a magnifying glass to examine it for damage? What square was it in? Was there any evidence on the floor of hygienic behaviour as Ron Hoskins describes?
    I’m glad that, having seen others, you prefer my hive design! Of course I shall assist with waxing your new hives. Do you have wax? Fresh cut larch: how grand! Will it need seasoning? Mine are made from salvaged pallet wood.
    I’m off to Gormanston today. It shou;d be really good as Prof. Tom Seeley is the chief lecturer. I must dig out my copy of his book and get him to autograph it. I wonder if he has a copy of mine! I expect Ben Harden will have some on sale at G’ston.
    Where will you put your four additional hives? You need an out apiary as, apart from the beekeeper, the worst enemy of a hive of bees is another hive of bees close by!

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