Thursday, 9 July 2015

Bee Calmed:

Bee Aware:

Our cottage should be renamed Bee-calmed cottage as at in mid June 2014 a nuclear hive of bees arrived in our garden.

Second Grandson was fascinated by their behaviour.

I do say arrived, as we had no contact with the mysterious beekeeper who delivered the box.  Its arrival was the result of a casual remark to a neighbour that I had always wanted to keep bees. They had an acquaintance who knew someone who rescued bee swarms.

Bruce made a stand and we placed in in a south facing position that would receive the most winter sun.  Then we went away for six weeks on our boat and hoped that the apiarist would drop by to check on it while we were away.

All was as we left it when we returned and the hive seemed very busy and very calm.

I had read lots about bees while onboard so I knew by the end of August the bees would have probably already stored most of the honey they would need for the winter. I would not mention it to any real beekeeper but when ever the temperature dropped to below 0 C. I would throw a wool blanket over it to help them keep warm.  The bees probably did not need my help but it made me feel better. We also put a large plastic lid over the top to lessen the amount of rain that would dampen the wooden box.

When we returned from Australia in March they were very active so we were anxious to see what was to happen next.

The golden-plum in bloom, garlic and kale in the raised beds, dormant espalier apples on the grey fence and espalier pears dividing the flower garden from the vegetable garden. Honeysuckle on the garage grid.

To make a long story short our elusive beekeeper did not contact us but through the neighbour's acquaintance gave us permission to do as we wished with the contents of the box.  That same day Bruce bought the makings of the first hive box and in no time had them assembled and painted.

Ah the excitement. This is the first time I have ever opened a hive. I am covered head to foot. I have even tucked my pants into my socks! We did not bother buying too much equipment - just a net that went over our hats, a smoker and a hive tool.

Gus helped too by getting the smoker to puff cool smoke.

This shows the empty nuc box. The frames have been moved into the new box  and extras added. There were a lot of bees still in the nuc and they spilled out to make their way into the new hive by sensing the pheromones of the Queen.

We were lucky enough to see her as she posed for this photograph. Notice her length and colour. Not as distinct as I would like it to be but the black patch on her back is smooth, not fuzzy like the worker bees. I believe we can see a couple of drone bees on the left as well. They are large and have huge eyes.

That was not the end of the story. The hive did so well that two swarms, a week apart, issued from the first hive.  We witnessed the second swarm leave the hive. It was quite a sight with the garden filled with thousands of circling bees waiting for the Queen to emerge. Once she settled they crowded about her to protect her while scout bees searched for a new space.

Fortunately both swarms settled in our plum tree where we shook them into a box and ...

quickly assembled another hive.

Now three Queens are busy producing eggs and the whole cycle will begin again.

Hopefully they will make it through the winter. We would like to keep two. If three survive we will be able to pass one on to a new beekeeper.

We have not taken honey from any of our bees as we suspect they may need everything they make to get them through the coming winter. The flowers have been about three weeks early in our Boundary Bay area and with the extremely hot and dry conditions we are concerned that nectar and pollen supplies will dry up.

I will report another time.  Any questions, happily answered.

regards Janine