Update on our new colony of Buckfast bees after three weeksPosted by Fiona Nevile in Bees | 4 comments
I grabbed the chance between showers to go into my hive of Buckfast bees this afternoon. They got very agitated initially but settled down after a while. And so did I!
The key thing to remember when examining a hive is to keep calm as possible. When I begin to feel a bit overwhelmed by the bees (these supposedly calm bees were dive bombing my veil) I always think of the indomitable and kind August Boatright and her advice to Lily in the novel The Secret Life of Bees:
“I hadn't been out to the hives before, so to start off she gave me a lesson in what she called 'bee yard etiquette'. She reminded me that the world was really one bee yard, and the same rules work fine in both places. Don't be afraid, as no life-loving bee wants to sting you. Still, don't be an idiot; wear long sleeves and pants. Don't swat. Don't even think about swatting. If you feel angry, whistle. Anger agitates while whistling melts a bee's temper. Act like you know what you're doing, even if you don't. Above all, send the bees love. Every little thing wants to be loved.”
Sue Monk Kidd from The Secret Life of Bees – a book that I really enjoyed and often think about four years on.
So love seems to be the answer here. When I lift the lid of the beehive I billow love. Haven't tried whistling yet.
The colony has increased a lot in size. I couldn’t believe how small the colony was when it arrived – it cost over £200 inc postage and packing so it was a large investment for us. But clearly it is multiplying now. The queen is laying – as I saw evidence of eggs. These eggs are teeny, tiny and quite difficult to spot. You need to turn the frame carefully in the light to get the right angle. The bees are not very keen on this procedure so you have to be as smooth as you can.
Eggs that will turn into brood and later bees of course doesn’t necessarily mean that there is a queen in the hive. In the absence of a queen or a queen with a very low pheromone level, laying workers can develop egg laying skills. Laying workers eggs are infertile. If you have these in your hive you have a problem.
There are several ways to find out if you have laying workers in a hive. If the egg laying pattern in the hive is regular, with just one egg per cell in a large swathe, this is a good indication that the eggs are being laid by a queen rather than a laying worker. The laying workers eggs do not have the same pheromone as queen eggs and will be removed by other workers. This means that the pattern of egg laying will be spotty on the frames. Laying workers also lay multiple eggs in a cell. This would be very rare occurrence if a queen was laying, unless she is very young and just getting to grips with the whole process.
Despite the colony increasing substantially in size, the bees had not drawn out all the comb. We’ve fed them a sugar solution to help this process as a lot of sugar is used in the making of viable cells for honey and brood. This means that we probably will not a great honey harvest from the Buckfast hive this year.
That’s OK as our main priority is to build a strong healthy colony this year that will survive the winter and give us a decent honey harvest next year.
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