Monday, 24 May 2010

Old Queen Bess

This is a rather interesting photo by Gina, which deserves a closer look with the larger version (by clicking on the photo).

In it we can see colourful pollen in the cells many of which has young grubs and some have eggs. This frame is from the new hive: Hv2. It is doing very well, the queen is laying well. The whole colony is busy and developing nicely.

The same cannot be said about Hv1 and its 'virgin' queen. I had given this queen a number of weeks to see if it will do its busy, but like old Queen Bess of ye old Tudor England she just won't reproduce. When I checked last time over a week ago she was seen wondering around rather aimlessly. I was advised to give it another week and see.

Yesterday I opened Hv1 and checked once more. I wasn't hopeful. My fellow beekeeper, Christine, was once again at hand to help. She observed that comparing with Hv2 the bees in Hv1 are too docile and seemingly without purpose, I agreed. The workers collective in Hv1 must have had enough of old Queen Bess for she is no where to be seen. We concluded that there had been a palace coup and the queen was got rid of. After a quick discussion we decided to try moving a frame with broods from the other hive and allow the workers to raise a queen. A quick phone call to my friends, Mike and Jenny, confirmed that it is something worth trying.

In the fading evening sunlight we spent sometime deciding which frame from Hv2 is best for the job. We have to use a frame that has young grubs as well as eggs. This will give the Hv1 a fighting chance. After much discussions we decided on a frame with eggs, young grubs and sealed brood cells. Christine reasoned that as the hive is already in decline due to the non-laying queen it would be good if we have some young bees from the sealed brood cells. In the event the workers failed to raise a new queen as least we shall have some new worker bees to keep the hive going. Of course in that scenario I shall have to unit Hv1 ans Hv2 in order to have one strong colony.

Now I just have to wait for things to happen, or not.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Helping hand

Last Sunday's newspaper (The Oberserver) reported that US government's Agricultural Research shows honey colonies in the US fell by 33.8% last winter. This is a huge number of bees.

Over here in the UK things are not much better. A study by Reading University suggested that bee population in England has halved over the last 20 years, and we have experienced a much faster decline then the rest of Europe.

While we are still waiting for a definitive answers, from experts, to why this is happening, concern for honey bee population and the possible effects on agriculture is real enough. Like so many environmental issues many of us are aware of what is happening, but we are not clear what can be done to cure the problem. More worrying is that many more people are unaware of the true impact if bee population is allowed to decline continuously without redress.

In the last two years I and others have tried to get permission for an apiary down in our local allotment, so far, we experienced strong opposition from people for whatever reason is against the idea. One would have though vegetable growers would welcome a few hives near by, but not so at this particular location. Strange but true. Talk about short sightedness.

My own solution is to keep bees in my garden. Any honey production, as far as I am concern, is a plus. The only person I needed to get permission from is my wife who following our first season is now warming to the little darlings. My neighbours all turn out to be very amenable even the one who told me, the other day, that she is highly allergic to bee stings. I advised her to carry an anti-allergy EpiPen.

Last year I looked into top bar beekeeping, which according to its supporters help the bees by reducing the amount of stress (on the bees) induce by traditional bee hive management. We all know how stress can damage human health. I am very sympathetic to the top bar method and aim to have a top bar hive in the future.

Meanwhile may be we need a more radical approach in order to help the bees. Perhaps a bit of guerrilla beekeeping is needed. I am thinking that as bee swarm naturally ( to increase numbers) so why not place a few hive of bees in the wild and allow it to develop with the minimum, or no, interference. Of course in guerrilla beekeeping we are not aiming get any honey in return, but like other conservation work the point is to give nature an helping hand.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Pretty in Pink

Last Saturday, overnight, we had over an inch of rain. Pink cherry blossom covers my street giving it the appearance of an impressionist painting. I love such moments in spring time.

Since the weekend the temperature has fallen a few degrees and we are back to central heating at night once more. From my dry kitchen I viewed my rain drenched garden with concern. I know that at a certain point I should inspect Hv2, and maybe take a look at Hv1 also, but the weather was against me.

Today the sky cleared at last and with the sun coming out soon the temperature rose to 16Âșc . As the rain was once again forecast for the next few days I thought that I must take advantage of the break in the weather and inspect the hives.

When I opened Hv1 I could see that the colony is getting on with things. After much searching I spotted the queen. Although there is plenty of stores I could see no sign of eggs, or grubs. Later on when I called on my bee friends, Jenny and Mike, they suggested that it's too early for this queen to start laying. They advised that I should leave this hive for 2 weeks as the queen may or may not have mated. It did look bigger than when I saw it over a week ago so it might have had its mating flight. Sex is such a complicated thing even for bees.

The new colony in Hv2 is more certain. I found the queen quickly and in the middle frames there are grubs waiting for their next stage of development. I removed the sugar feed and closed up feeling rather pleased even though I am still anxious about Hv1.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Workers' Collective

We had a thunder storm last night - it's the first bit of rain for over two weeks. The air was cool in the morning and even though the sun was out activity around the hive was very quiet. I spent the morning down at my allotment, digging and weeding, and by the time I returned home in the
early afternoon the temperature had risen so high that both colonies were buzzing.

My neighbour, big Jon, is now referring to both hives as Workers' Collectives and in a manner of speaking he is right. It's a shame that if I were to name them as such the hives would be WC1 and WC2. Think I'll stick to the Hv prefix instead.

I took a quick look at Hv2 first and things were normal. When I looked at Hv1 I was delighted to see one, then several bees bringing in pollen. This is great news! I am posting a photo and a short video in which you can see several bees retuning to Hv1 with pollen. Strangely, they all seem to have the pollen on their left hind legs. If so, I wonder how it would affect their flight.

If the weather is fine I planned to do a hive inspection, although now that I can see both hives are bringing in pollen I feel less anxious about checking. Anyway, it would depend on what the weather will do. We shall see.

How many bees are bringing pollen back to Hv1?