We’ve Successfully Mated

Don’t get too excited, I’m not talking about Anna and I, I’m talking about our bees. We’ve always had trouble getting newly emerged queens to mate. We perform an artificial swarm as the perceived wisdom dictates, but for some reason the queen that emerges from the queen cell never seems to be able to start laying successfully. We were beginning to think that maybe we were just too far away from any other honey bee colonies and there just weren’t any drones around for her to mate with.

We were however a little more hopeful this year simply because we had heard that there were some hives at the Garden Centre about a mile from here so maybe we would be OK this year.

Bee Inspection

When I performed the artificial swarm at the end of April I said then that:

I think I’ll give the new hive with the queen cells in 6 weeks as a maximum. If there isn’t a new laying queen in it by then (the middle of June) then I think I’ll buy a mated queen and introduce her to the colony.

I’ll be away next weekend and as it was lovely weather on Sunday afternoon I decided to take a look at them a week early. I wasn’t sure if the queen would have had time to mate and start laying yet, but she probably should have. The 6 weeks was after all the final deadline.

I’m pleased to say that I saw the new queen in the hive and that there were some eggs and a few very small larva. Not loads yet but it’s a start and hopefully things will only get better.

Honey and Larvae
Honey and Larvae

What’s more, I was worried that the hive with the original queen in was still going to swarm again. When I last checked on them a week or so after performing the artificial swarm I stated:

The hive with the original queen in wasn’t quite playing the game though. The queen was still there and seemed fine, but there were two queens cells as well, one of which was almost sealed. Clearly they are still feeling swarmy and I don’t think there is much I can do to stop them. I destroyed the two queen cells to give me some time but part of me feels that I should just let them get on with it. Yes, we would lose the queen if they swarmed, but a new one would have time to hatch, mate and start laying if they did it now. It is still only May after all.

The good news is that there still seems to be a queen in residence and she is still laying. As far as I can see, there are no new queen cells either. Hopefully all is on track.

Promising Times

I don’t want to jinx it, but not only do we currently have two colonies both with laying queens, but we have performed the artificial swarm at the perfect time of the year. The saying goes: 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.

We managed to perform the swarm right at the end of April so seem to have a head start on the year now. With laying queens in both hives hopefully we’ll have a good summer and they will have plenty of time to not only increase in numbers ready for the winter but maybe even produce some honey – we’ll see, as no doubt the bees will be up to no good within a week or so again!

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Alan Cole

Alan is a Freelance Website Designer, Sports & Exercise Science Lab Technician and full time Dad & husband with far too many hobbies: Triathlete, Swimming, Cycling, Running, MTBing, Surfing, Windsurfing, SUPing, Gardening, Photography.... The list goes on.