I’m just back from a visit to my apprentice, Sarah, at her Bee Happy Plants nursery. Actually is isn’t just a plant nursery now: her 2 year old grandson caught sight of me and thought I was Father Christmas!
There were two jobs planned: to transfer the contents of my first top bar hive to a new one that I have just completed and to transfer the contents of Sarah’s poly-hive to a TBH.
Sarah was given a poly-hive a while ago and, for reasons that aren’t entirely clear to me, installed bars from a TBH , with one in the bottom box removed so as to enable access to the upper box. We were going to move it to some land she has some miles away and then bring it back to move the bees and bars into a TBH elsewhere in her nursery. She hasn’t been able to open the hive but tells me that they seem busy and healthy and are bringing in lots of pollen. I picked up from in front of the hive and showed her a bee with deformed wings.
There was a change of plan as her fields are full of sheep, horses and cattle with nowhere to place bees safely. She did need to move the hive as it was abutting a polytunnel that needs a new skin so we did the easy thing and simply moved it sideways by a little under 3 feet. Somewhen we will have to separate the two boxes, possibly with the assistance of a cheesewire, get the bars out, re-shape them and transfer to a TBH.
Then we went to my ancient TBH, which I built from pallet wood 20 years ago. It’s well past its best and is warped and gappy. The new one is from timber kindly purchased by Sarah and constructed by me. It took a long time as I have been hors de combat and other things took priority. I completed waxing it a couple of days ago, using beeswax flaked with a cheese grater and melted in with a hot iron.
The day being cool, grey and damp there were few bees flying. First we moved the hive sideways onto a nearby stand, empty because Sarah is modifying the TBH with a mesh floor and varroa tray. She refers to it as the ‘observation hive’ which constantly confuses me!
Then we adjusted the legs of the stand which have strayed off course, re-tying the wire keeping the crossing point of the X shape in the right place. The bees had been left alone for a few minutes without disturbance so there was little activity. I did drift in a little liquid smoke. Sarah had a traditional smoker with her and attempted, without success to light it.
I started to remove bars from the rear and immediately noticed a mouse nest! That was a brave and agile creature to find its way in and out repeatedly, gathering nesting material! The mouse wasn’t present so I gave the nest to Sarah for smoker fuel.
The bars at the rear were ones I had harvested last year so I put them in the front end of the new hive to enable the colony, as they more forward to the entrance, to draw new comb. There were a few empty combs, showing mouse damage and they were placed at the rear, then a couple of combs full of honey, then the brood combs with most of the bees on. I should have kept count but didn’t. I think that there were about 5 combs with brood, some a bit spotty, and I saw one bee with DWV. It could have been worse as they hadn’t been treated.
Sarah was stung once and I got 4 or 5, none serious and the pain soon went with no after effects. Over a cup of tea afterwards we doodled with an idea of a bee-shed. I don’t suppose anything will come of it, but watch this space in case it does.