Auctions and Swarms and new queens

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Dear reader

Well I do apologise - there is more than one of you unless my single reader read the last blog 18 times ! Glad to have another on board !

Just to reassure you - if you are a newbeek (less than 20 years experience) that the bee frenzy and excitement one feels every new season doesn't go away even for us mid-beeks (28 years) nor for old-beeks of 40 years (one up the road who's got the spring buzz as well)

Anyway, Much to do in May was my last blog entry - and it continues apace.

I dragged Hachi along to the GBKA auction at the weekend - his first and not his last either. Some interesting lots with silly prices for some kit, crazy prices for other and unbelievable for full colonies of bees ready to split at £80 each.

I don't think it was as well organised or as promoted as in previous years, it clashed with an auction in Wales too, and numbers of lots were down.

Anyway, having come away with wooden nuc boxes at £10 a pop (yes I do use Maisemore 6 frame poly nucs with the extra feeder as well) I can only imagine people are selling wooden ones as the poly ones are en-vogue. I also picked up 2 'Swi-bo Denrosa' poly nationals - supers already painted and into use and a pile of honey buckets, I wasn't too disappointed.

This week has consisted of making up 2 frame nucs with new Italian Buckfast Queens, making additional brood frames up and collecting swarms.


Oh my days. I haven't seen such a frantic week or two of swarming for 6-7 years. Luckily, and I'm pretty certain about this, none are from any of my own colonies. YET. But it explains why, in the apiary with WBCs in, why a load of bees had been sniffing around the closed up empty hive - I'd mistakenly believed it was just bees 'drifting' from the strong colony next door, but no. Queue the arrival of a huge prime swarm on Wednesday evening.

Having also completed a trap-out at the same site, and collected a huge prime swarm at the Paddock the following weekend, I thought it was over.

How wrong can I be ?

Having dodged very heavy showers on Sunday to construct some windbreak/screens at the nuc apiary, I just thought I'd close or rather, re-stack the brood boxes a swarm arrived in last weekend to discover to my delight another huge prime swarm in residence ! When they arrived I know not when but considering I only relocated the swarm that arrived in the boxes less than a week ago, they must've hot tailed it into the space vacated by the previous swarm.

So - more kit needed and more relocations too.

Finally, I was dodging the rain mixing up sugar syrup when I received a call from a new beek in Westonbirt asking if I wanted a spare swarm as she'd run out of kit. I umm'd and a'hhd and said ok.

30 minutes later there I was sorting out her predicament - tidying up one prime swarm she had that hadn't transferred into a new poly brood chamber - she was being too delicate and a good whack of the swarm box popped them in. Roof closed I thought that was it. No - the 'swarm' was another prime swarm she had on some Wisteria. Queue me popping the swarm she didn't have space for into a Maisemore Polynuc (my last one).

I sat on the wall for a moment thinking - why can I still see bees clustering. and about a metre away I discovered a Caste swarm. So that was duly popped into the same nuc as the lack of fighting I checked with a few sample bees thrown down made me sure it was from the same colony.

Once more we sat on the wall discussing bees, and my eyes happened on a large number of dead bees on a slab further along the Wisteria.

Why are they there I asked ? she didn't know. So curiosity being the better of me I stooped down (I am 6'4) and took a look. hmmm. no obvious reason why....ah wait a moment just above my in-hooded head was a massive prime swarm.

Neither of us had realised it was there originally. I was actually amazed as here in the space of 2 days 3 prime swarms and a caste had collected on the same Wisteria. Only one was definitely from one of her colonies as her second hive was quite weak.

It had been there long enough to build comb too. That was popped into the old swarm box she had and I agreed to collect it later this week.

I was at pains to explain I'd return one of them to be re-united with her swarmed colony in month or so so she'd get a bit more honey but as this was the 'aggressive' hive, she didn't want me to.

Sadly, as a beekeeper entering her third season it seems her training and coaching was lacking (I won't mention who did her course here by name only to say he does independent courses in the area) and he had said not to worry about gloves or smoke and even suggested veils were optional. Complete and Utter madness and totally irresponsibility in my opinion for any beekeeper let alone a new beekeeper embarking on opening a strong colony for the first time !

I of course reminded her she could call me anytime for help and offered to help her inspect her colonies in due course....!

This weeks seems a welcome return to more rain but May isn't over by a long chalk...and neither I rather expect is the swarming !