A few days ago I went to check my hive in an orchard at Seaborough, which is on a hill above the River Axe near the Somerset border. Unusually, the owners and their family/friends were there, I suppose because it was a bank holiday weekend. There was a bunch of kids and they were interested in the bees and excited at the prospect of seeing them opened.
One of them, a lass who must be almost a teenager, wanted to come close and watch so I lent her my all-in-one bee suit which Dad ensured was fully zipped up. She assured me that she has been stung before and is not allergic. I put a blob of oil of cloves on her hand and showed her how to rub it in.
We went to the hive, from which the bees were flying strongly, and I gave a squirt/spray of liquid smoke at the entrance. The lass chose to stand where she had the best view, in the flight line just in front of the hive, which meant that she had lots of bees around her, but she wasn’t bothered. I had warned her not to flap her hands around the bees.
The top super was light and almost empty of bees and stores, but the lower one was full. I removed the queen excluder and gently started to go through the hive. On the second frame there was a broken drone cell from which I was able to remove the pupa, complete with Varroa mite, to hand to the girl to examine. As I went through the frames, I showed her what was what, with the brood in all stages.
We saw the Queen! The lass (I think her name might be Frankie) was so excited! She’s a rather large one and must be a couple of years old or more as she arrived with a swarm that hived itself near my back door last year. I saw no signs of disease or impending swarming so closed up the hive, reversing the order of the supers so the fuller one is now on top, giving more space close to the brood box. I think I shall add another super shortly.
It was only after I had closed up the hive that I looked round and saw about 4 more kids, completely without protection, sat on a plank only about 5 yards away! I rather suspect that young Frankie will soon want a hive of her own in the orchard!