Sunday, 18 April 2010

What is that noise?

We had a whole week of beautiful sunny days. Temperatures at night were cool, even cold, but during the day it warmed up nicely - more so each day.

Back in March I put down in my diary to do my first inspection this weekend. Though the swarming season is near everyone I spoke to agreed that we have a bit of time to get things ready to prevent swarming. Someone had forgotten to tell the bees.

Yesterday after I finished my son's outfit for his friend's birthday costume party I decided to just take a quick look at the hive before I went out for the day. When I opened my back door the noise hit me. Hundreds of bees were flying high above the hive. Their intention was clear. 'Don't panic', I told myself. I quickly suited up and got a super box out of my loft. Lighting the smoker when you are trying to keep calm, as I discovered, is not easy. Once that was done I quickly opened the hive lid, removed the crown board and put down the queen excluder then added the super. After closing the hive I made a call to one of the more experienced members of my association. Jenny and Mike confirmed that my bees were intending to swarm and very kindly suggested that they would come and take a look, but as they were busy I would have to wait till the morning. They also suggested that I inspect the hive and see what is going on inside and may be put a box down, if I had one, near the hive hoping the swarming bees would go there.

With the bees still humming all around me I opened up the hive and began my inspection. There were a massive amount of bees - more then I have ever seen. The first two frames were still not properly drawn, which I supposed to mean that they were not short of space. As I moved further on I could see a large number of sealed worker cells and a few drone cells. No sight of the green dotted queen! Problem...

I moved on and suddenly my attention was drawn to a high pitched piping sound. What is that noise? I examined the frame really closely and located the source of the sound. A queen (not The queen) was moving along piping now and then and stopped from time to time to dip it's back into a cell. Was it laying? I went through the rest of the frame and could not see the green dotted queen which came with the nuc I bought last year. So it's good news and bad, I thought. Then I spotted something else: a large queen cell hanging from the top of frame 8. No mistake. I closed the hive by now the whole hive had quietened down a lot and there were fewer bees in the air. I called my friends once more and they confirmed that the piping insect is a queen. That's what the girls do.

Saturday came and went and my son had a nice party at his friend's. Meanwhile I was worrying about the little darlings flying away. This morning I woke up bright and early and had a quick look. The hive seemed fine. Activity normal. By 10 am I was beginning to get anxious but I just had to wait for my friends to turn up. I took another look at the hive - a handful of bees at the entrance - nothing unusual. I went in the house and washed my face. It's now just before 11am. Suddenly I heard that loud humming sound again. I looked out of the window and they were gathering once more. I rushed downstairs and my wife was busy closing the kitchen windows. They were swarming over our neighbour's garden!

I quickly called Jenny and Mike to update them on the event. They said they would come quickly. Meanwhile I could only watch my bees gathering on my neighbour's fence and cluster on some low hanging branches. I suited up and told my near neighbours not to venture into the garden and the bees are harmless. They were really good about it.

Half an hour later my my helps arrived. With their expert help we managed to get them into a nuc box, which they brought with them. It was a wonderful sight to see thousands of bees getting into that box. I am now waiting for evening to come so that I can move the box back to my garden and hopefully they will stay. If so I shall have an extra hive. There are lot of things I shall have to do in the next few days, and weeks, not least to get a new brood box.

Due to a volcano eruption in Iceland, Northern Europe has been a no flying zone for three days now: Clearly this does not apply to bees.

See for yourself here how they get into the nuc box.

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