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!