A Holiday Swarm
After a couple of weeks away and therefore no beekeeping we were wondering how our bees had been faring as we drove home after our holiday. We didn’t quite get home though before the beekeeping began! As we drove out of Builth Wells about an hour from home, I had a phonecall from someone down the road saying that they had a swarm of bees in their garden and could we go and collect it.
Collecting a Swarm
As it was so close to home we assumed that it must have been a swarm from one of our hives so spent the rest of the journey home speculating where it could have come from and wondering what we’d do next with the swarmy colony. We stopped off to take a quick look at the swarm as we drove past and then as soon as we got home we put the swarm catching kit in the car and Morgan and I headed back to collect the swarm whilst Anna started unpacking.
The swarm wasn’t huge and was hanging under a small bush in the back garden so proved easy to collect in a nuc box. As it wasn’t a massive swarm we decided to keep it in the nuc box for a while whilst we decided what should be done with it. We doubt that it will build up in time to be large enough to over winter, so it might be used to merge with another weak colony to bolster their numbers before the winter. If it has a viable laying queen in it then we might be in need of her services elsewhere so hanging onto her would give us some options once we had chance to inspect our bees. Catching a swarm at this time of year may not be ideal, but it should give us a few options should we need to hep out any of our existing colonies.
Fortunately the weather was on our side the following day and we were able to inspect all of our colonies – those at home and those in our out apiaries.
Surprisingly those at home didn’t seem to show any signs of having swarmed. There were no queen cells in any of them and they all appeared to be queen-right and full of bees. None of the are that strong mind you as they have all been split or re-queened this year. In fact, those that we had left to re-queen at home whilst we’d been away appeared to have done so and all three colonies at home had eggs, brood in all stages and seemed to be doing well. There wasn’t much honey in any of the supers though, but at least the swarm we caught yesterday didn’t seem to have emanated from one of our hives.
Our colony in our out Apiary above Talybont seemed to be doing really well. It was packed full of bees yet again, but thankfully hadn’t swarmed despite the lack of room. They had started drawing out frames in the super too, so if the weather holds for the next few weeks you never know, we might just be able to extract from this hive. Although I had expected them to have more stores by now, but with so many bees in the hive I guess there have been lots of mouths to feed. It’ll now be a race against time for them to build up the necessary stores for winter and a balancing act for us as to how much to extract and how much to leave them with before feeding in earnest over the autumn.
The hive in our Llandre out apiary wasn’t doing quite so well. We had left this one with queen cells in the hope that it would re-queen, but as yet there was no sign of a new queen. No eggs, no brood and no queen herself. We shall leave it for another week just in case she has yet to start laying, but if there is no sign if her then, we may decide to introduce the queen from the caught swarm into this colony. Strangely though this colony, despite being queenless does have quite a bit in the way of honey stores – enough at least for us to extract some.
All in all, not a bad start to our beekeeping following our holiday as things could have been much worse. Hopefully the swarming is over with now for the summer and the colonies can settle down and start the all important work of building up stores for winter. The swarm we caught doesn’t seem to have been from any of our hives so it gives us some free bees, some new genetics and hopefully some options as far as using the queen in a queenless colony goes should it be needed. Hopefully if all goes well we’ll be going into winter with at least 6 colonies. Considering we started the year with just two colonies and the plan for the year was to make increase rather than make honey, I’d say that we had been fairly successful.
Although, on Sunday we went on a Apiary Safari with the Aberystwyth Beekeeping Association to one of the membrs apiaries. Not only did she have quite a few hives all lind up in a perfect spot, but she had loads of honey supers full and ready to extract, whilst other members were saying that they had far too much honey and were fed up of extracting! When you see and hear tales like this it puts it all into perspective. Our bees at the seaside are only just scraping by so our plan is to reduce the number of colonies here and hopefully move them to one of our out apiaries where they’ll hopefully fare better. Time will tell.
As usual, the bees are up to their own thing and we just do our best to keep them happy.