Back at the beginning of this year I took a beginners beekeeping class with York & District Beekeepers Association. My mother had taken this course a few years ago and now has several hives in her garden but given last year’s swarm adventure it was decided that I would take the course so that I could assist her. We are now in the thick of swarm season (I yet again spent a day chasing swarms around the village only for them to abscond a day later!) and I thought I’d post a little update on the calmer parts of the year so far.
I’ve really enjoyed going into the hives with mum and seeing all of the things we’ve learned about in class actually in person. You can see above a beautiful arc of capped brood (bee larvae) with stores of honey arranged around the outside in the corners.
Here you can see a close up of the larvae in their cells before being capped. You’re wanting to see nice C shaped larvae with defined segments and a nice pearly white colour (which these were in person!) There are lots of things you’re looking for to check that your colony is happy and healthy. When things go wrong (and they will) you’ll find out because you’re seeing something odd in the brood.
Can you spot the Queen Bee? I’ll give you a hint, she ends in the top left of the shot. She’s the one with the long, pointy bum. Alas, since taking this video (which was taken by accident, I was just filming bees, we didn’t realise the Queen was in frame until later that night when we were looking at the video!) Queen Beatrice has either passed away or swarmed unexpectedly. Upon a later hive inspection there were no eggs. If you can’t see any eggs, your Queen isn’t doing her job! We’ve taken emergency measures to hopefully get them to generate their own Queen and we’ve split off some Queen cells into a nucleus hive to rear a small colony as a back up if we need to re-Queen later in the year. In one of our other hives they decided to go from nothing to 20 Queen Cells and swarming in the blink of an eye! We just mistimed our hive check by 1 day due to bad weather but at this time of year that day can be crucial and they were off!
The beginning of the year was going so well, everything was looking like something out of a textbook but then it all went a bit wrong and we sometimes haven’t a clue why our bees are doing what they’re doing. Beekeeping is a brilliant hobby and it’s absolutely fascinating but for one month a year, I won’t lie, it’s hellish! I’m just hoping that our colonies will have got all of this silliness out of their system now and we can fix them up and build them towards the summer. It’s funny but even with the very little hands on experience I’ve got so far (I don’t actually start the practical part of my course until later this month!) you can get to know the temperament of the colonies, I swear Hive 1 and Hive 2 hum at different pitches and Hive 2’s bees are much smaller. I look forward to getting to know them as we go on, hopefully with 3 colonies this year!