Finding the queen
John the bees came a few weeks ago to check on progress and mark the queen for me. When we opened the hive we found the bees were doing very nicely. Lots of healthy brood (eggs and larvae), lots of stores of honey and pollen.
We needed to find and mark the queen. Marking the queen makes it easier to see her when you are checking the hive in spring and summer to make sure she is present and laying and to distinguish her from any new queen that may have appeared. Five different colours are used to show the age of the queen (important if you have several hives)
Marking the queen bee
year ending in 5 or 0 – blue
year ending in 1 0r 6 – white
year ending in 2 or 7 – yellow
year ending in 3 or 8 – red
year ending in 4 or 9 – green
John marked the queen and clipped her wings. If they swarm next year, the queen won’t get very far and the bees stay with her. They’ll be easy to find – just under the hive – so easy to collect.
Now is the time to start treating the hive against Varroa mite. This mite has been causing havoc. in bee colonies. It carries a number of viruses and our bees have little resistance to it. So, it’s out with the chemical weapons, more specifically, thymol. A tray of thymol in a gel is placed in the hive for 4 weeks to kill the mites. We did this and closed up the hive.
I inspected the hive again yesterday. The bees seemed very agitated and made a great fuss. They run around quite a bit and a big clump fell onto the ground while I was holding a frame. When I checked my gloves later I found 7 or 8 stings. Don’t know why they were so annoyed. Maybe it was the weather, or maybe my gloves had been stung last time and I hadn’t noticed. I’ve washed the gloves now and I’m thinking about buying nitrile gloves to use instead of leather.
So, what progress? Well, the bees have now drawn out some foundation on all but 2 of the 11 frames. I saw honey and brood in 2 of the new frames so that’s progress. I saw a bee about to emerge – it would be great to be able to observe them for longer but I’m always anxious to get them back in the box so they can go about their business of making enough bees to get safely through the winter ahead.
The photo is not the best, but you can see capped brood in the lower left and empty brood cells where bees have emerged. In the top right is an area of lighter coloured capped honey cells.
I’ve inspected the hive 3 times now and have yet to see the queen. I suppose that isn’t too unusual for a beginner.
There are some great videos on Youtube (as well as some rubbish) and I particularly like this one of a very calm beekeeper and his docile bees. Wish mine were as placid. It’s worth watching all the way through to see the way he handles the queen and marks her with a number. No gloves and no stings.
Novice beekeepers in the apiary
I recently finished a beekeeping course at Llysfasi College near Ruthin. The course was excellent and I’d certainly recommend it for anyone wanting to get started with bees. It was a good mixture of theory in the classroom and hands on learning in the apiary. Loved opening the hives and finding the queen, the smell of the wax combs and the bees flying around us. Such a lot to learn though and hard to imagine getting to the stage where we can take honey from our own hive. I hope to tell the story of getting there in this blog.