August Bee Update
Last time I posted about the bees on July 31st things were looking up in our home apiary. All three hives were looking good with newly risen queens in a couple of them and brood and stores on the increase. We were beginning to think that we might end up with some honey and some healthy happy colonies to take into winter. This was welcome news seeing as the two colnies in our out apiary looked as though they weren’t going to make it through the summer.
The bees of course like to dash your hopes whenever they can and when I inspected last week things weren’t looking quite so positive. It looked as though two of the colonies had swarmed.
Clettwr which had a new queen in it that we marked the week before was looking decidedly quiet, there was little left in the way of stores or bees and more worrying was the fact that there were no queen cells either. On top of that I couldn’t see any eggs. Why would the queen leave without leaving any suitable provisions for a new queen to emerge? Who’s knows, but that looked as though that was the situation.
Leri was still looking good.
Hive 5 looked as though it had issued a swarm as well. There was no sign of the queen and things were looking a little quieter in there, but at least there were a number of queen cells, so although we may have lost a swarm there was at least a new queen on the way.
How things can change in the course of a week. It’s now a week later and I’ve made another inspection, so have things changed again for the better? Well, possibly.
Clettwr: There must have been at least a few eggs in here as there are now a few emergency queen cells. These aren’t the usual queen cells that you get at the bottom of a frame. Usually such cells are built before a queen departs with a swarm. They are larger than normal cells and hang from the bottom of frames. The queen then lays an egg in them and the nurse bees feed the larvae that develops with plenty of royal jelly so that it turns into a new queen. By contrast, emergency queen cells are built on cells already containing eggs in the middle of a frame. They are used when a queen dies or disappears for some reason and there are no queen cells prepared before this happens. It allows the bees to raise a new queen from an existing egg when an emergency strikes. Hopefully this is what they are doing and hopefully they will be successful. Although time is now running short for the queen to hatch, make a mating flight, return and then start raising enough brood to allow the colony to build up decent stores for the winter.
Leri still looks good with loads of bees – it actually looks like a proper colony – loads of stores including one full super and plenty of brood.
Hive 5 has been busy. There are still quite a few bees in it and they have a fair bit in the way of stores in the brood box, but not much in the super as yet. Some of the queen cells have hatched and I saw what definitely looked like a queen. She wasn’t huge so may not have mated yet and I didn’t mark her as there is a possibility that there is more than one in there. A couple of the queen cells had yet to hatch. I could have destroyed these to save the queen fighting it out for supremacy with any other queens that hatch. Doing so could also prevent the risk of caste swarms. However I left one there as an insurance policy should something happen to the queen on her mating flight.
There wasn’t much I could do really other than to leave them to it and hope they know what they are doing.
Elsewhere, in out out apiary things are looking pretty dire. The smallest of the colonies has died out completely and I fear that the other is about to follow suit. All we can do is leave them to it and hope for the best but in reality Im preparing to dismantle and disinfect the hives in the near future ready to try starting over at the out apiary next year.