We went into the winter at Marlpit Community Garden with two thriving colonies of bees in our apiary. The third colony had a virus disease, chronic bee paralysis, and sadly didn’t survive the winter.
On 4th May it was warm enough to open up our two remaining hives for the first inspection of the year. The mild winter meant the queens continued laying right through, and the cold April kept the flying bees indoors on most days and delayed the inspection.
Both colonies are doing well. I found thousands of worker bees, some drones, and evidence the queens had been busy, in the form of brood – eggs, uncapped brood (larvae) and capped brood(pupae).
I also found queen cups and queen cells in both hives. This was a sign that the bees were preparing to swarm and urgent action was needed if the queen and half the bees were not to leave in search of a new home.
Over the next two days I performed an “artificial swarm” on both hives. This is a method of separating the queen and flying bees from most of the house bees and brood and at least one queen cell. Then, if all goes well, the old queen will continue to lay in one hive, while in a new hive the workers will raise a new queen, she will go on a mating flight and on her return start laying and establish a new colony.
If this is successful, we will end up with four colonies of bees instead of two.
Five days later I received a call from John Everett of Apple Bee Apiary and Orchard that the “nuc” of bees we had ordered for the hive donated by the Heary family were ready. I collected them on Tuesday 10th May and set up their box on site, ready to introduce them to their new home once they settled down.
On Wednesday I introduced the bees to the Badevci Hive by transferring the frames from the nuc box to their
new home with the bees still on the comb. Within minutes they started to emerge from the doorway and orientate themselves to their new position.
Some of them seemed confused because this hive was on legs so I gave them some bricks to climb up to help them to find the way home.