No doubt I’ve called a blog post exactly that before! Why would they decide to start swarming again at this time of year?
The saying goes something like this:
A swarm in May is worth a load of hay;
a swarm in June is worth a silver spoon;
but a swarm in July is not worth a fly
In that case, a swarm in September in completely and utterly useless and probably spells doom for the colony!
They’ve been playing up all summer, with swarm after swarm whatever we do and then we’ve had drone laying queens, laying workers and all sorts of nonsense going on. I’d like to think that the ‘bees know best’ and that they know exactly what they are doing but sometimes I have my doubts.
At the beginning of August things were looking up. We had a couple of fairly strong colonies, two that were due to requeen and two weaker colonies that were the result of a split from a nuc. From this split, the half with the original queen was building up and the queen seemed happy, the other half had re-queened and seemed to be settling down too. But, a week later there was no sign of the new queen. We couldn’t see her, there were no eggs, and no young larvae. We waited a week and checked again and still no sign of th queen even though she had definitely been present a couple of weeks before. We had planned to possibly unite these weaker colonies to create a stronger colony ready to go into the winter so it wasn’t a huge problem. Now that one of these was queenless it seemed like the ideal time to re-unite them. We did exactly this using the ‘newspaper method’, but next time we looked at them, there was no sign of the old queen now either and the lower brood box that had contained her now had several queen cells in it.
I’ve taken another look today and it seems as though the original queen has definitely absconded. The queen cells are sealed and the upper brood box had loads of new emergency queen cells. I’m sure its far too late in the year for a queen to emerge, mate and start laying, but at the moment all we can do is wait and see if they manage it. I’ve split them again to give us two chances at re-queening so late in the year. If we can find a mated queen that we can buy from someone then I’ll introduce her to one of these hives but things aren’t looking great for them.
We also have a nuc box with a caught swarm in it that should by now have had a laying queen, but she seems to have absconded as well, so that colony is weak and queenless too. We’ll have to unite it with another colony so as not to waste the bees.
Elsewhere, in our out apiary we have a hive that should have re-queened but hasn’t done so. Yet another queenless hive. Luckily we have acquired a nuc with a laying queen that we can unite with this colony to hopefully give it a fighting chance.
Fortunately our other out apiary does have a strong colony in it. It’s the first time we’ve tried to overwinter bees here though and as yet they haven’t built up any honey stores. It’s time to start feeding them like mad so that they have plenty to get them through the winter.
I only hope we have a good winter for the bees as it doesn’t look as though we’ll be going into it quite as strongly and well prepared as we had hoped.