Apiary meeting, Swanmore, 17 July 2021

Kirsten, Chris, Dawn, Barbro, Simon, Louise, John and Colin; some of the attendees at the apiary meeting. Saturday 17 July

Our planned 10 July apiary meeting was cancelled due to rain but rescheduled for the following Saturday. We’re sorry if you couldn’t make it at short notice but we knew the bees needed checking so we had to proceed. In the end, the weather was perfect but of course, attendance a bit lower than usual. We hope those who could attend found the meeting enjoyable; we certainly came across a few interesting situations!

Louise took the whole group through one of the association’s stronger colonies which is currently on double brood. I filmed part of the inspection on my phone and you can see the video here. Apologies for the rotten camera work and even worse editing; I’ll try to remember to stand in one place next time and not get carried away in conversation!

On the close-ups, if you can’t see what’s being referred to by Louise (for example, eggs) just pause the clip and study the still. On the eggs frame, you can see them just left of centre.

We also forgot to come back to how you can increase the drone population within your colony before deliberately culling them as part of a non-chemical programme of varroa control. If you would like further information on varroa control, please click here.

After going through the hive together, we split into smaller groups to inspect two more of the association colonies.

Louise’s group found their colony to be still only on seven frames but with a good laying pattern; four frames of capped brood, three with eggs and larvae. As has been typical for most local colonies this season, they also found only minimal stores but probably enough to get them through for now, particularly with the improving weather.

Howard’s group quickly found that we’d missed a swarm. The colony was in a standard National with one super 60% filled with nectar. Despite the swarm, the population was strong; the bees were still occupying nine of the eleven frames in the brood box.

Unfortunately, the brood box was light on stores (most of the frames were wall-to-wall capped brood) but there was plenty of stores in the super. The bees had simply run out of space, no wonder they’d swarmed!

We wanted to split the colony into a nuc; one frame contained seven sealed queen cells but the manipulation was made difficult because of the lack of stores on brood frames from the parent hive. This meant we had no food to add to the split to sustain them until their flyers emerged.

Ordinarily, we would have taken filled super frames from the parent hive but the available nuc didn’t accommodate a super in which to put them. Shucks!!

In the end, we transferred the frame with the seven sealed cells into the nuc. It also contained a small patch of capped brood and some pollen and nectar. We transferred another frame of drawn comb and a third frame with some brood and stores. We also shook in some extra bees from the parent colony. Finally, we replaced the frames we’d taken from the parent hive with frames of foundation from the nuc.

We’re reasonably confident that the nuc won’t issue a cast swarm due to its reduced population, meaning that the first queen to emerge will probably kill her rival sisters.

Back in the parent hive, we removed all the remaining sealed queen cells leaving only two unsealed but charged cells; we were very careful to check that they were charged (i.e. contained a larva and royal jelly) and that we didn’t damage them.

Judging by the presence of so much nectar in this and other hives, the bees are making the most of the better weather and are determined to make up for lost time!

Before a cup of tea and a chat, we quickly looked through another colony housed in a deep National (14”x12”) brood box. The main purpose of opening this hive was to compare deep National frames with standard National frames and to demonstrate the differences in weight and manoeuvrability.

Let’s hope this good weather continues and we look forward to seeing you at the next meeting at Ocknell Pond in August. For an update on the apiary’s progress since the last meeting, click here.

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