Our bees have been very secretive of late. About a month ago we found queen cells in the hive. We split our colony and put old Queen Rose and her court into a nuc and waited to see what would happen.
A new queen hatched in the hive, went AWOL and returned home again. Meantime, in the nuc, Queen Rose also went MIA for two weeks and eggs were absent from frames. What could be happening?
Our bees seemed to know because they were behaving calmly and happily going about their business as if everything was ‘queen-right’.
This week, all was revealed.
Who are they?
Before I arrived at the apiary I got a text from Emily, ‘There are about a million new people here!’, and she was right. There were a lot of new faces from Ealing Transition Community Garden who have started a community bee project in Ealing and were visiting our apiary to learn about beekeeping.
Unsure how effectively our bee suits would camouflage us from curious faces, Emily and I had a cup of tea and discussed tactics before stealthily visiting our bees. You always get a bit of a crowd when you open a hive at the apiary – but this was a big crowd!
While sipping tea, I was introduced to another new arrival:
Albert reliably informed me that ‘they bounce’ and demonstrated. As everyone around the table had accepted the jungle challenge, I bravely tried a pickled egg. It was … rubbery. Cliff was kind enough to share my egg and polished off the other half.
That done, we got on with the business of beekeeping.
Mission Slightly Difficult
Emily suggested visiting our nuc first which meant taking a wide detour around the visiting group and ‘they might not notice us’. I was careful not to make eye contact and to be very stealthy.
A happy surprise awaited us inside the nuc – Queen Rose! She was running around the fourth frame looking healthy and well, but her blue mark was almost rubbed off which might have made her tricky to spot during previous inspections.
There were still no eggs and suspecting that the queen had no room to lay, because the frames were all filled with stores, we decided the nuc colony was ready to transfer to a hive.
Here’s one we made earlier
My old hive was ready and waiting, so Emily carefully put Queen Rose and the nuc frames in the centre of the brood box. I swopped the empty brood frames in the hive with frames from our other hive, because these already had wax foundation drawn out and would make the transition a little easier for the colony.
Our bees were rather reluctant to leave their old home and no amount of shaking or brushing the nuc would make the most stubborn ladies budge. We were lucky to have Joseph observing our efforts, who suggested propping up the nuc to the entrance of the hive and letting the bees walk in. So we left them to do just that and went to inspect our other hive.
A little detour
Along the way, we visited Matwinder’s hive. Sadly, this hive is a bit notorious for having the nastiest bees at the apiary. But the colony was recently re-queened and the bees re-formed. Pat was amazed at how calm and well-behaved they were.
Long live Queen Rosemary
We eventually got to our other hive and carefully opened it up – it is home to a feisty and unpredictable queen! The colony was doing well and had drawn out lots of frames in the super. Honey production has been slow at all the hives at the apiary partly because of the dry spring and summer we have had. There has not been much forage for Ealing’s bees. But I think we may yet get a jar of honey this year!
The queen was there and she was laying. So confident that all was well, Emily closed the hive. I am naming all our queens after essential oils and christened our feisty queen Rosemary, which suits as her mother is called Rose.
Meandering back to the new hive we found that the bees had walked from the nuc and into their new home – just as Joseph had said they would! So we now have two hives and two queens. Anything could happen next.
Taste of Spain in the rain
And if that were not enough productivity for one weekend, I went to ‘Taste of Spain‘ with some girlfriends on Sunday afternoon for a bit of culture, music and paella. A typical British summer’s day, it rained, but this did not deter determined tourists from: