I mentioned a while ago that my TBH at Ourganics was apparently queenless and, if that proved to be the case, I would transfer a comb of young brood from another TBH a couple of miles up the road. That was Plan A.
My post brought a response from another Dorset beekeeper, Roland Prakel, with whom I had corresponded but never met, who offered me a queen, the daughter of a Jonathan Getty AMM queen that he had acquired last year for breeding from. I went to Portland to meet him and get the queen. He has about 50 colonies on various sites on the Island and the mainland.
He opened a nucleus and went through it to find and cage the queen, together with a few workers to tend her. They were very docile and the queen was large, dark and lovely. I had brought along some Candipolline that I was given as a free sample at the Spring Convention to block their exit. Roland opened a few other nuclei, all good tempered, which is good as his site is on allotments.
I took the caged queen and workers to Ourganics and introduced them to the hive. I couldn’t see a sensible way to fix the cage to the comb without blocking their entrance so I placed it on the floor a couple of inches below the densest patch of bees.
Three days later (yesterday) I went back to check that all was well and had gone according to plan. It hadn’t worked! The bees were ignoring the cage and the Candipolline had barely been touched. I opened the cage (once I had worked out how to do so!) and found that the workers were alive and they soon joined the residents with no problem. The queen, however, was dead!
She was placed on a comb and dozens of workers came and tried to revive her. I picked her up and cuddled and breathed on her to try to warm her, all to no avail so, after the biggest part of an hour, I gave up and removed her and closed the hive. Plan Bee had failed.
Back to Plan A. The top bar hive in the manor orchard up the road yielded a bar with comb containing brood in all stages including eggs and very young larvae. I brushed off most of the bees but left a few, at the suggestion of a friend who was helping me, in order to tend to the brood as the broodless bees might take a little time to get their organs in gear.
We wrapped the comb and bees in her coat for the journey back to Ourganics. I had to trim the comb a little to fit it into the hive as the TBH at the manor is of the silly trapezoidal shape so the comb was too deep. For the first time that afternoon I used a little liquid smoke to confuse the scent of the hive and reduce the chances of the bees fighting each other.
I shall leave them for a few days and then be nosy to see whether they are rearing queen cells.