News From the FarmED Apiary

Posted: 15th May 2019

I have just completed my first full inspection of the season, although Chris has already done two inspections at the FarmED apiary, and kindly kept an eye on my hives too. Thankfully, my remaining hive was still alive, but since last week, when Chris visited, the number of bees had vastly reduced. We concluded that the hive had probably swarmed and left very few bees behind.

While inspecting the brood frames, we found a virgin queen, confirming that the old queen must have 'taken a dive' out of the front of the hive in an attempt to swarm and taken a big chunk of the colony with her.  

Just as we spotted the virgin queen, she took flight and flew away. Hopefully she'll get successfully mated and be back soon to help re-establish the colony.  The loss of the old queen isn't a surprise or a disaster. There have been many swarms this spring due to the early mild weather and the old queen did have quite an 'attitude problem'!  This hive has always been quite emotional (as Chris would put it) so replacing the queen may well improve things.

We found a lot of water in a few places in the brood box, as well as some mouldy brood frames.  It’s likely that the colony has struggled to manage the temperature and moisture since swarming, therefore allowing water in the hive to condense in the recent heat.

Having dealt with this, we looked up and were faced with a big swarm over the apiary, which had just appeared from somewhere else - probably attracted by the smell of the apiary.  After a few minutes the swarm flew away south across the farm, much to the amusement of the builders on the FarmED development.

Chris proceeded to inspect the rest of the hives in the apiary.  His nationals seem to be doing well, with good numbers of bees, apart from the colony which was lost over the winter.  One of his hives had three mature queen cups so was trying to swarm. One of the queens actually emerged (with a little help) while we were watching.  

With this virgin queen, as well as the two healthy queen cups, we decided to split this hive to populate two other empty ones - Chris' empty national and one of my WBCs. (Both of my white WBCs have been empty for a year due to us losing colonies to the weather and wasps.) We took one of the brood frames containing a queen cup and put this, along with two other well populated brood frames, into nuc boxes. These nuc boxes were then placed inside two empty hives. We'll come back in a few weeks to see how the new split colonies have survived. Hopefully we’ll find mated queens in the nuc boxes, so we can transfer the colonies into proper brood boxes. Fingers crossed.

We'll soon be populating the one remaining empty WBC with a nucleus that Chris has brought on, specifically for the FarmED apiary. The sainfoin on the farm is just on the brink of flowering, so this should provide plenty of food for our bees over the coming few months.

Centre for diverse farming in the Cotswolds.

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About Us

It's always been part of our vision to have a farm as an extension of the Cotswold Seeds business and in 2013 we bought Honeydale Farm, one hundred acres in the Cotswolds. During the past couple of years we've been making huge progress on the farm and this blog was set up to share this progress with our friends in the farming world.