Yesterday I made a visit to my apiary at Frogmore Farm, an organic farm a couple of miles from me. The first thing I noticed as I disentangled the (hopefully!) badger-proof fencing was that the taller hive (2 brood boxes and 3 supers- you’ve got to store them somewhere!) was roofless!
It was not only roofless but missing its crownboard also. I picked up the roof and found the grass to be very pale beneath so it has been off for a week or two, I guess it came off during the nocturnal gale that destroyed 12 panes in my greenhouse (bee house to be). Nevertheless, bees were flying strongly from the entrance and I could see lots of pollen going in.
I gave both hives a brief whiff of liquid smoke from the almost empty sprayer (I hope I have another sachet tucked away somewhere or I shall have to find my smoker) and opened the smaller hive, a single brood box first. They had plenty of bees and plenty of stores and I could see some pollen on a bee’s legs.
I found a comb with polished brood cells and thought I could see the first eggs of the expanding brood nest, but as I examined other frames I could find no other brood at all! Then I noticed the noise the bees were making: the queenless moan!. I went back through the frames and re-examined the one with the eggs. They weren’t eggs, just the reflection at the joint at the base of polished cells. I need new glasses!
I moved to the next hive, the tall, roofless one. The supers were empty but there was some weight in the upper brood box, above a QE. I went through the lower brood box and found plenty of brood including lots of sealed drone brood and even a drone, the first this year. I noticed that, like the hives I had checked the previous day, that there was less unsealed brood than I would have expected.
I chose a frame that had a patch of very young brood and transferred it to the queenless colony in the hope that they will raise a queen.
As I replaced and secured the fencing I noticed that the ground had been disturbed in places close by. I think I ought to make some wire pegs to ensure a badger can’t get a nose under the fencing and get in to wreak havoc as has happened before. There’s a badger sett a stone’s throw (I don’t know what that is in metric) away big enough to trap half a class of school kids!
I left that site and went to Cattistock Church where I had been advised of bees trapped within. I found the base of the window of the Lady Chapel had hundreds of dead bees on it but couldn’t see where, among the beams above, they had found their way in.
I went outside and could see a few bees flying to and from their usual entrance below the guttering about a yard to the east of the window. This is on the north side of the Church and is very shaded and so I think that the first sunny day for ages had made a gap by a beam inside the Church much brighter and therefore more enticing than their usual entrance.
When I got home I reported to the Vicar who had drawn the problem to my attention. There have been bees in that Church for quite a few years and it is a pity to see them decimated in this way. The vicar’s husband is an architect and I hope he will be able to find the gap and plug it.