Monday, 17 May 2010
A swarm and a sting
Swarms and stings are to beekeepers what death and taxes are to all of us - inevitable. One of the main skills of beekeeping is swarm prevention, or at least control. Having boned up on the procedure I was fully prepared to carry out our first artificial swarm [a method of preventing loss of a swarm] on Sunday, but the bees decided to leave on Saturday!! Jacqui was outside with Ruffle when she heard the unmistakable roar from the end of the garden. Fortunately the bees were gathering in the sycamore hedge only a short distance from the hive. With the butterflies in my stomach similarly swarming I put on the kit, lit our smoker and gathered some boxes.
Earlier in the week I had set out a spare hive on a stand so the plan was to persuade the swarm to set up home there. I managed to shake the bees into my boxes, it took several goes, and then upended the boxes on to a white sheet. Pausing only to extract my first sting from my left thumb, I placed a wooden board up against the landing board on the new hive and covered it with a white sheet. Then I carried over the boxes wrapped in their sheet and shook them on to the board. After a nervous few moments for me the bees turned uphill and started to march into the hive. It is a truly amazing sight. I used a pheasant feather to redirect some that missed the entrance and were marching straight on up the front of the hive. At no time did I spot the old queen but I think she must have been there otherwise the bees would have marched straight out again. The air was full of flying bees all this time but gradually they settled down.
A swarm usually takes about one third to one half of the bees leaving the non-flyers, some flyers and all the brood in the original hive. In the evening I set about moving the old hive to one side and placed the swarm hive in the original position. This should mean that next day flying bees return to the swarm hive strenghtening it.
Next day, Sunday, I went through the old hive removing all the capped queen cells [a couple are shown pictured above you can just see the larva though the broken end], leaving uncapped ones. In a weeks time I shall go in to that hive again and remove all but one of the queen cells. Hopefully we shall finish up with a new colony with a laying queen in about three weeks from then. As to the swarm that will lose numbers until the bees have created new cells and the old queen has started laying again. What we need now is warm weather and a strong nectar flow.
As to that sting, I was wearing "Marigold" rubber gloves. They cannot prevent the sting but they do stop it penetrating too deep and they make it easy quickly to remove the venom sack. All in all not as bad as I had expected!!
As to my beekeeping skills and swarming the present score is bees 1 beekeeper 0.