At long long last we’ve had a couple of warm and sunny days and so I thought I’d open a hive. I don’t open a hive on the first sunny day as their undisturbed foraging etc is more important than my curiosity, besides which, if they have some open stores to gorge on they’re less likely to be petulant if disturbed.
The hive I chose was a Top Bar Hive in an orchard at Berwick Manor. It’s not my usual half cylinder TBH but a trapezoidal one that I was given by the chap who made it but had no success. I adapted it by having the entrance at the end rather than halfway down the side and the bees seem to do reasonably well in it but do insist on attaching their comb to the walls of the hive, which doesn’t happen nearly as much with my design.
Having been distracted elsewhere during the afternoon, it was about 6.15pm that I arrived at the site. Bees were still flying. I clad myself, put all the clove oil I had (about a 10th of a drop) on my hands, put on cycle clips and gave a single spray of liquid smoke in the entrance.
I started at the back of the hive and worked forward until I found some comb. The rearmost one had partly liquid stores so I left that but took the next 4. I didn’t have a brush with me but there was an ivy bush close by with which I was able to dislodge any bees, lower the comb into a supermarket plastic bag and slice off the comb with my hive tool, leaving about half an inch as a footprint on the bar to guide renewal of the comb on the right line.
Then I came to the brood area covering about 5 combs. It looked healthy enough and I saw the queen, who’s marking is getting a little faint. She arrived with a swarm early in May last year so this must be her third or fourth year. If the opportunity arises, I’d certainly consider breeding from her as the bees are black (thus possibly native but I haven’t checked) good tempered and industrious. I saw some sealed drone comb but no drones yet. There was one worker with deformed wings so there are varroa present as is to be expected.
I replaced the bars towards the front of the hive to encourage them to draw new comb for brood rearing. A couple didn’t have their ‘footprint’ on the ideal alignment so I placed them between drawn combs in the hope that the bees will thus be guided to draw the new comb parallel to them.
When I got home, I weighed the crop and it’s about 14lb. It’s now sitting, still bagged, in one of the honey buckets I bought at the auction. Tomorrow (later today now as it’s after midnight) I hope to visit another TBH in the vicinity at ‘Ourganics’ and possibly harvest some more honey there.