3 months on – success at last

It is some time since my last post on my beekeeping efforts and much has happened since then.  However, firstly may I thank all the customers who have been kind enough to take an interest in my bees and their welfare.

In my last post I reported that I had lost my queen.  Unfortunately, my efforts to grow a replacement did not work out.  However, a fellow beekeeper, Phil Walton, caught a feral colony for me, including a new queen.  Introducing a feral colony is normally considered a “dodgy” practice as the bees could be diseased.  However, without a queen my colony was lost anyway so I gladly took the risk.  With Phil’s help we mixed the two colonies.  To prevent them fighting and killing each other we dusted them with icing sugar.  They immediately started licking the sugar off each other and in doing so did not notice the different smell of their new neighbours.  By the time they had finished an hour or so later they all smelt the same and happily walked into the hive.  I only lost 8 bees through fighting.  The new bees were jet black without any gold hoops so I called the new queen Michelle.

Very quickly Michelle started to lay fresh eggs in a nice, even pattern and the two colonies settled down together.  It was very exciting to see the new eggs and then the spaces as they hatched.  However, the wet weather started to have a detrimental effect on the colony and I noticed that the bees were using up all their reserves of food.  The colony was expanding more quickly than it could gather food due to the rain and on the brink of starvation!  I thus had to start feeding them artificially with a mixture of sugar and water, something that one normally only does in April or over the Winter.  I soon found that feeding them once a week was not enough and had to both double the feed quantity and frequency of feeding.  I checked with other beekeepers and they all confirmed that this was an abnormal event that they too were experiencing.  One told me that in 25 years of keeping bees he had never experienced a more difficult summer for the bees.  Trust me to start beekeeping in such a year!

Fortunately, a couple of weeks of feeding and the start of some drier weather has done the trick.  On my last two inspections I have noticed that the colony is still expanding and now producing reserves of food again.  Indeed they seem to be gathering stores at quite a prolific rate and producing plenty of wax combing.  Moreover on my last visit they were quite calm and well tempered.  As I closed up the hive I started to feel quite confident.  It was then that I noticed my new queen on the grass at the front of the hive!  I must have dropped her when handling the frames.  To avert disaster I quickly picked her up using my hive toll but as I used my other hand to open up the hive, I dropped her right at my feet in the grass.  I did not dare move for fear of treading on her.  I could not believe that I might be back to square one.  How was I to own up to other beekeepers that I had lost two queens in a season?  I then spotted her by the toe of my boot.  This time I made no mistake in scooping her up and dropping her back in thebees need u posterA4 PRINT (2) brood chamber.  It was a narrow escape from disaster but I am keen to see fresh eggs and thus confirmation of Michelle’s continued presence in the hive on my next inspection.  I had no idea that beekeeping could be so dramatic and stressful!