Little dramas

This post was originally titled Drama queens.

Apposite … it’s mostly about queens.

However, the term drama queen refers to someone who overreacts to a minor setback 1 … which is almost the complete opposite of what I’m intending to discuss.

Instead, this post is about the – sometimes unseen – little dramas in the apiary. Things that go wrong, or could go wrong but eventually go OK because you gently intervene … or often because you don’t intervene at all 😉

It’s also about observing rather than doing. It’s sometimes surprising what you see, and – with a little application – you can learn something about your bees 2.

Of course, in the end some things do not end well … but there’s no point in being a drama queen about it 😉

Swarmtastic

There’s a certain predictability to the beekeeping year. It’s dictated by the climate and latitude, by the forage available, by the need for bees to reproduce (swarm) and by our efforts as beekeepers to corral them and keep them producing honey 3.

All of which means that June has been pretty manic. 

After a record-breakingly cold spring things finally warmed up. Here in Scotland this was 2-3 weeks into May.

Since then it’s been a near-constant round of queen rearing, swarm control, making up nucs and adding supers. Most of the OSR supers are now off, meaning that I’ll be hunched over the extractor for hours when I’m not with the bees 🙁

All the OSR near my bees is well and truly over – this lot is sadly just out of range

The rapid warming in late spring triggered a lot of swarming activity. I found my first charged queen cell on the 18th of May and, in at least one or two colonies, at every subsequent inspection since then.

Visits to the apiaries have been hard work. Inspecting a double brood colony with four full supers involves a lot of lifting 4.

And the lifting is necessary because I need to check whether there are any queen cells in the brood chamber.

I know some beekeepers simply prise the two brood boxes apart and expect to see queen cells at the junction.

That certainly works … sometimes.

However, I’ve found several colonies with queen cells in the middle of frames, or otherwise in positions I would not see them if I just looked at the interface between the boxes. 

Queen cell … and what else?

And I would still have to remove the supers to prise the brood boxes apart.

Although I’ve invested in some better quality hive tools, I’d need a crowbar to separate the boxes if there was 80 kg of supers on top 5.

So, if I have to take the supers off, I might as well look through the box carefully.

More haste, less speed

But before I fire up the smoker and start rushing around prising off crownboards I always try and simply observe what’s happening in the apiary.

Are all the colonies equally busy? If it’s the time of day when the new foragers are going on orientation flights are any colonies much less active? Have they had a brood break?

Which direction are the bees flying off or returning from? Has the main forage changed?

Are there any drones on orientation flights yet?

What’s happening at the hive entrances?

Is there pollen going in?

Any sign of fighting?

Or robbing?

It’s surprising what a few minutes observation can tell you about the local forage, the state of the colonies and their relative strength.

If you’ve not already read it (and even if you have) it’s worth finding a copy of At the Hive Entrance by Prof. H. Storch 6. The book’s strap-line is “How to know what happens inside the hive by observation on the outside”. Recommended.

And, now and again, you notice something unusual …

Queen under the open mesh floor

Like – in my peripheral vision – a single bee flying out from underneath an open mesh floor.

My queens are generally clipped. If the colony swarms the queen often finds her way back to the hive stand after crashing – very unregally 7 – to the ground. She crawls up the leg of the stand and ends up underneath the open mesh floor (OMF).

The bees then join her. It’s not unusual to find a large cluster of bees under the hive floor, with lots of activity, and lots of bees flying to and fro from underneath the OMF 8.

But last Friday, by chance I noticed a single bee and this prompted me to investigate.

A quick peek confirmed that there wasn’t a swarm under the OMF.

But there was a queen.

I spy with my little eye … you can just see the marked and clipped queen under this Abelo floor.

Almost completely alone.

I presume the colony had swarmed, the queen had got as far as she could and the swarm had eventually abandoned her and returned to the hive. 

When I inspected the colony I found a single sealed queen cell and confirmed that the queen I found was the one that was missing.

This colony was one of my ‘middle third’ ones 9i.e. destined for requeening with better stock if I had any spares.

There’s a near-to-eclosion queen cell under there …

I did.

I had half a dozen ‘spare’ queen cells almost ready to emerge from grafting at the start of June. I removed the queen cell in the hive and carefully checked I’d not missed any others. I then added the grafted cell, seating it in a thumb-sized depression over some brood. She will have emerged the following day and might even be mated when I check early next week.

Had I not seen the bee emerge from under the floor I’d have never otherwise checked. There are always a few bees under an OMF, but it’s rare to find a queen all alone there.

Queen in the grass

In another apiary the previous week I’d found a satsuma-sized cluster of bees in long grass about 10 metres from the hives. The application of a little gentle smoke and some prodding around with my index finger resulted in a clipped and marked queen calmly walking up onto my hand.

Microswarm? … or more likely the remains of a much larger one …

Again, I wouldn’t have seen this had I not been taking my time checking the hive entrances and the activity in the apiary. I was being even more leisurely than normal as there was rain threatening and I was trying to decide whether to start the inspections or not

Because of the known state of other colonies in the apiary – most were nucs with virgin or recently-mated queens – it was obvious which colony the queen had come from. 

The ‘threatening rain’ looked like it would soon become a certainty. I ran the queen in through the front entrance of the hive and the remaining bees eventually returned to the hive, fanning madly at the entrance.

Bees fanning at the entrance

When I next checked the hive the queen had gone 🙁

There was no sign the colony had swarmed, but there was a recently opened queen cell in there. I assumed there’s a newly emerged virgin queen running about in there with ‘blood on her hands’ having done away with the original queen.

We’ll find out next week.

Again, a few minutes just watching things in the apiary meant I found the queen. Had I not done so I’d have only seen the end result – a queenless colony – not the events that led to it.

Preventative and reactive swarm control

I should emphasise that the majority of my colonies are a little more under control than the two described above, both of which clearly attempted to swarm.

In both cases the clipped queen saved the day, even though she may not have lived to fight another day.

My swarm control (and success thereof) this season has been in stark contrast to last year’s ‘lockdown beekeeping’.

Then the priority was minimising travel and guaranteeing I wasn’t haemorrhaging swarms that might cause problems for the the public or other beekeepers.

I therefore used the nucleus method of swarm control on all my colonies. I implemented it well in advance of the peak swarming period. By doing so, I undoubtedly weakened my colonies. I produced less honey and did no queen rearing.

But I didn’t lose a single swarm 🙂

This year the priority has been to maintain strong colonies. Some are being used for honey production 10 and others are being split to make up nucs.

Inevitably a few have got a little ‘overcooked’ … but the clipped queen has usually ensured the bees remain in the hive.

I don’t think I’ve lost a swarm, but I have lost a few queens.

Queen in the cage

One of my colonies went queenless in mid May. This was well before I’d got any spare queens – mated or otherwise. I’d hoped that they would rear another, but it was too cold for the new queen to mate and the colony started to look a little pathetic.

I considered uniting them but, for a variety of reasons, never got round to it.

When I finally had a spare mated queen (in early June) I popped her into a JzBz introduction cage. I’d already plugged the tube with candy and placed a plastic cap over the end. 

The bees could feed the queen through the cage, but could not release her.

This is my usual method for queen introduction. I check the cage a day or so after hanging it between the frames. If the bees are showing aggression to the queen I leave it and check again 24 hours later.

Once they’re no longer showing any aggression I remove the plastic cap. The bees chew through the candy and release the queen.

Job done 🙂

I then leave the colony at least a week before inspecting, by which time I expect to see eggs and larvae.

JzBz queen introduction & shipping cage with removable plastic cap

On returning a week after removing the plastic cap I was dismayed to find the queen still in the cage. Most of the candy had gone, but there was a plug at one end that was rock hard. Clearly the bees had been unable to release her.

The colony had now been broodless almost a month. Brood pheromone is really important in suppressing laying worker activity in the hive. Queen pheromone is no substitute for brood pheromone 11 and I was very concerned about the additional lost week due to my stupidity 12.

But there was no point in being a drama queen … I opened the cage and gently released the queen onto a seam of bees. Five days later there are eggs and larvae (and the queen) in the hive, though I also think there are a few laying workers as there’s a smattering of drone pupae in worker cells (a classic sign).

Fingers crossed 🙂

Queen failure

The final ‘little drama’ was played out in full view over almost two months. Its eventual unsatisfactory conclusion was largely due to my procrastination … though I suspect a swallow or house martin may have hastened events at the end.

In late April, during one of the rare warm days it was possible to actually open a colony, I noticed some strange egg laying behaviour in one hive. 

The colony was queenright. The queen was marked and clipped and laying. However, although she was laying single eggs in worker comb, she was laying multiple eggs in about 10% of cells, almost all of which were in drone comb.

A fortnight or so later she was still doing the same thing. Even if it wasn’t obvious to me, it was clearly obvious to the bees that the queen was failing as they started a couple of queen cells. Here’s an enlargement of an earlier photo in this post – blue arrows mark single eggs, red arrows indicate multiples.

SIgns of a failing queen

I removed the queen and added a near-mature queen cell from my first round of grafting. She had emerged when I next checked, but was not yet laying (and I didn’t bother looking for her).

But, unlike the queen stuck in the cage, this didn’t have a happy ending.

By early June there was no sign of the queen and I fear she failed to return from a mating flight. There’s a big pond bear the apiary and it’s a magnet for swallows and house martins 13.

I added a frame of open brood (including both young larvae and eggs) in the hive, but they ignored it 14.

Frames showing the characteristic dispersed bullet brood of laying workers

When I next checked it was clear there were laying workers and I cut my losses and shook the colony out. 

In retrospect what should I have done? 

I should have united the colony in mid-May.

It was obvious then – at least to the bees – that the queen was failing. I’d never seen a queen laying singles in worker comb 15 but multiples in drone cells. 

Uniting would have immediately provided both brood pheromone and a laying queen. This would have suppressed the development of laying workers.

My notes go something like:

  • 18/5 – Still laying singles in worker and multiples in drone. Weird. QC looks like supersedure. Give them a week.
  • 26/5 – Q out. Didn’t check further. Decision time next week.
  • 3/6 – Strange. Increasing drone brood. Behaving queenright. Decision time next week.
  • 12/6 – Laying workers. Shook them out. Will I ever learn? EEJIT 16

The second rule of beekeeping

Anytime I write Decision time next week (or variants thereof, like Give them another weekin two successive weeks then it’s almost always going to end in tears 🙁

If it happens three times in succession it’s a nailed on certainty.

The first rule is – of course – Knocking off queen cells is not swarm control 😉


 

Footnotes

  1. And, for the etymologists amongst the readers, this dates back to an article in the Washington Post in April 1923 “If he is thwarted in his effort to enjoy them, he may either go to the dogs or the drama queens, become short-tempered, sullen, grouchy and eventually feel that, in a way he is a failure” … a near-perfect description of me when my beekeeping plans go awry.
  2. Though, if you’re anything like me, you might have to repeat the lesson a few times.
  3. Or pollinating, or collecting propolis or making Royal Jelly or ‘saving the bees’ or whatever floats your boat.
  4. Though most are thankfully on a single brood box, including the most productive hive which ended up with 5 supers. Unheard of for my bees since moving back to Scotland.
  5. A year or so ago I weighed a couple of dozen full supers before extraction. They weighed 17-23 kg each. I now guesttimate the average is 20 kg. This means that the first 16 I brought back to extract last weekend involved lifting something like one tonne; from the hives to the car to the honey warming cabinet in the extracting room. No wonder my back is sore.
  6. There’s a PDF (of a rather poor photocopy) floating around on the internet which is easy to find. I know some of the ‘books’ for sale – Amazon I’m looking at you – are simply printed copies of this photocopy. Caveat emptor. Try Northern Bee Books who might have a better quality copy, though it might be worth calling Jeremy first to ask whether it’s an original or facsimile.
  7. I don’t think that’s a real word.
  8. And if you do, just drop them into a nuc box or skep, just as you would a swarm … which is what they are.
  9. For an explanation see the post describing my ‘rule of thirds‘.
  10. And it looks like it’s going to be a record spring in terms of honey/hive.
  11. Oops … this might be incorrect as Elaine points out in the comments. There’s evidence that both brood pheromone and queen mandibular pheromone suppress laying worker development. Look forward to a future article on this … or not.
  12. I usually keep a couple of ready-plugged JzBz cages in my beesuit pocket. The one I’d used might well have been there since last year. What a muppet.
  13. Or maybe it’s the apiary that’s the magnet, and the pond just provides the garnish.
  14. Sometimes (though not in my experience, which this event simply reinforced … why do I never learn?) the brood pheromone will suppress laying worker activity and they then rear a new queen from the eggs provided.
  15. Though admittedly in a rather haphazard pattern …
  16. Irish (and Scottish) slang for a procrastinating beekeeper who really should know better and acted sooner.

26 thoughts on “Little dramas

  1. Gordon maddan

    I don’t feel that queen clipping is an appropriate management technique. I think it’s unnatural and wouldn’t do it even if I lose the occasional swarm.

    Reply
    1. David Post author

      Hello Gordon

      Beekeeping is ‘unnatural’. Queen clipping is partly for my convenience, but largely to stop my swarms causing irritation – or worse – to other people. If lost swarms don’t die a lingering death in midwinter (and 80% of them will perish before the following season) then they might inconvenience another beekeeper who has to go and recover them. Alternatively, they could move into the church tower, or a hall of residence, or a primary school (all three of which I’ve been called out to over the last 5 years) … or the roof space os someone who is anaphylactic. Yes, that’s a worse case scenario perhaps, but I’d prefer that my passion for bees isn’t enforced on others who might not want it.

      I think that there’s good evidence that clipped queens live equally long and productive lives as those that are not clipped. It might not be natural, but in my view the benefits outweigh the disadvantages (or perhaps the ‘naturalness’ or otherwise of the practice).

      Your choice of course – I’m not suggesting everyone should, but the benefits are considerable (and perhaps greater for others than for the beekeeper who loses the swarm).

      David

      Reply
  2. Elaine Robinson

    Hi David
    Like you I clip my queens, it works really well especially when factors such as poor followed by good weather prevent inspections, yet the swarming urge can follow soon after.

    However, I’m a bit uncertain about your comment “Queen pheromone is no substitute for brood pheromone”, I thought one of these alone is sufficient to prevent laying workers?

    In the winter and end of the summer, there can be broodless periods (or even enforced broodless periods through queen caging) when the queen goes off lay, yet laying workers do not develop. Hives can also be used as queen banks with virgin queens and I haven’t heard that this is accompanied by a threat of laying workers?

    Can you expand pls why a hive needs brood pheromone to prevent laying workers, when a queen is also present (as was the case of your queen in her cage with hard fondant), given the scenarios I’ve mentioned above when laying workers do not develop?

    Best wishes
    Elaine

    Reply
    1. David Post author

      Hi Elaine

      Eek … perhaps I’m wrong? As Kamala Harris didn’t quite say “It’s not the first time and it certainly won’t be the last!”.

      There had been a queen in that hive all the time (other than when they did away with her back in May). The virgin Q just never got mated. In the end I added the mated queen in the cage. I’m sure I’ve seen colonies with failed queens (that are still present) develop laying workers.

      However, a quick scan of the literature suggests that queen mandibular pheromone and brood pheromone are both involved in suppression of ovarian development. I’m not sure which, if either, is more effective.

      There’s been some interesting stuff recently published on Cape honey bees and, inevitably, these – which naturally produce worker laying workers – have also been studied to determine what suppresses the activity.

      Perhaps it’s time to revisit the topic?

      In the meantime, I’ll add a footnote to the post …

      With thanks
      David

      PS I should add that I’m not even certain there are laying workers in that colony, but that’s a separate point 😉

      Reply
  3. Meriet Duncan

    I absolutely love your blogs. Your section on ‘Queen failure’ is EXACTLY the same as my experience. I could have written that for you! My notes are almost identical and I am so cross with myself as next week I shall be shaking out the bees too which is going to break my heart. All because I, like you, gave them another week, two weeks running. I couldn’t do it this week as I’ve been working frantically to take of the supers with the OSR honey in. My first experience with Rape… urch… Onward and upward as the bees probably think to themselves as they take off. May I say once more, I love your blogs… thank you.

    Reply
    1. David Post author

      Hello Meriet

      Shaking them out isn’t the end of the world. If you do it in front of other strong colonies many of the bees will be accepted – you’ll be one colony down, but it’s not the same as having to destroy it.

      Like mollycoddling weak colonies during the spring, if the warning signs are there (and they certainly were here) it’s usually sensible to just accept that it’s sometimes best to be “cruel to be kind”.

      Delighted you enjoy the writing.

      Enjoy extracting the OSR 😉 It’s not bad as long as you get to it before it crystallises in the frames. If that happens then it’s a right pain 🙁

      Cheers
      David

      Reply
  4. Dani Akrigg

    I too left it too long last year and ended up with laying workers. This year I have a bottle of Ocimene to try if the need arises. I hope I don’t have to use it but it would be interesting to see if it prevents LWs till I can do something about it

    Reply
    1. David Post author

      Hi Dani

      I’ll be interested to know how you get on with it.

      For readers unfamiliar with Ocimene, it’s a monoterpene that has been identified as the active ingredient of brood pheromone, responsible for suppression of ovarian development in workers. Yves le Conte and colleagues found it (Maisonnasse A, Lenoir JC, Costagliola G, Beslay D, Choteau F, et al. (2009) A scientific note on E-β-ocimene, a new volatile primer pheromone that inhibits worker ovary development in honey bees. Apidologie 40: 562–564.) and published its characterisation.

      It’s worth noting that in almost every instance I’ve had laying workers it was likely avoidable if I’d acted a bit faster. It’s usually my tardiness that has ’caused’ it. Nevertheless, for the rare occasions when you cannot do anything with theh ive (unite, requeen etc) it would be good to know there might be a way to hold them back from developing laying workers.

      The thing I most dislike is the way they trash perfectly good comb 🙁

      Cheers
      David

      Reply
  5. Kerry Hird

    Another great blog and I really like that you happily share your successes along with the blips, which we and most certainly i can relate too lol! I read and say omg I did that too! I ended up splitting a hive and my queen ended up in the wrong box with all the eggs! It was 2 days later I watched lots of pollen going in and I just knew! Back in i went to sort it out and a happy ending ensued but with Queen Betty in a new hive. You had written a post about this and I just chuckled away. We are only human and we can only do our best with a hive full of crazy females !

    Reply
    1. David Post author

      Hi Kerry

      I only dare share some of the blips 😉 If I shared all of them I’d have to post twice a week.

      I’ve got a hive at the moment divided for queen rearing and I’m not certain which half the queen is in … I’ll be checking it tomorrow before adding the grafts on Sunday.

      The phrase ‘steep learning curve’ has always seemed nonsensical to me. If you assume that knowledge is on the vertical axis and time horizontal, then subjects – like beekeeping – that are difficult to grasp should be described as having a shallow learning curve. It takes a long time to get good at it (i.e. knowledgeable). And you only get good by learning from your mistakes (and, perhaps, by reading about errors by others). One of the problems with beekeeping is that – if things go wrong – you can be left with no bees, which is really demoralising. Hopefully, some of the things I write help readers not make the same mistakes I make, or at least understand why they need to do certain things if the hive is in a certain state.

      I’ll also continue to share the (rare) successes when they happen … like my current grafting success rate of 90% acceptance 🙂

      Cheers
      David

      Reply
  6. Frazer

    Thanks for the brutal honesty David, it’s always uplifting to hear 🙂

    I had a cluster of bees under an OMF in April this year and I think I know the reason for it now!

    I do not clip Queen wings personally. Whilst I am often squishing slugs and, no doubt, killing bugs as I walk over , well, anywhere…. I feel I should not intentionally inflict harm when it can be avoided. I wonder if we just treat those which cannot show response (or which we cannot sense those which have a response to injury) to pain as if they have no pain, when perhaps we should do the opposite.?

    Best regards, and thanks as ever

    Reply
    1. David Post author

      Hello Frazer

      This probably isn’t the place for a philosophical discussion. I choose to clip because I think that, overall, it benefits the bees, the beekeeper and the non-beekeepers (those poor unfortunates 😉 ) that we share the environment with. I also don’t think it ‘hurts’ or harms the queen. However, whilst I do it myself (and offer clipped queens to people getting bees from me) I know others choose not to and respect their choice. However, I also think that beekeepers have a responsibility to (at least try and) not lose swarms and that those that allow/encourage ‘free swarming’ aren’t doing beekeeping or bees any favours. Queen clipping is one way I try and achieve this ‘gold standard’ in my own beekeeping. Not always successfully I should add 😉

      I hope the season’s being good to you and your bees.

      Cheers
      David

      Reply
  7. Peter Williams

    Just for information there are plenty of copies of “At the Hive Entrance” on eBay…………….

    Reply
    1. David Post author

      Thanks Peter

      Again it’s a case of caveat emptor I’m afraid … if you look carefully at the images on eBay you can see that most have a small white square in the bottom left corner. This is the library identity sticker of the copy that was scanned. The first two reviewers on Amazon (admittedly not the most trustworthy source) comment on the poor quality of these copies, which includes text cropped off the edge of the page.

      I’m sure there are some good quality copies amongst them, but they might take some finding.

      Cheers
      David

      PS I’m assuming you’re not the seller on eBay … I don’t allow advertising 😉

      Reply
      1. Peter Williams

        Thanks David

        ……… and no I’m not the seller on eBay, although the sellers on eBay seem to be Amazon re-sellers. I ordered one of these ‘spoof’ copies for which eBay commendably refunded the monies immediately I complained. I then did what I should have done in the first place and bought a proper printed version of the book from Northern Bee Books. many thanks for your advice.

        Peter

        Reply
        1. David Post author

          Hi Peter

          I didn’t think you were the eBay seller. I’ve had a few ‘adverts’ carefully crafted as comments and I’ve gone out of my way to exclude advertising or sponsorship here. NBB is a reliable source and I miss the opportunity to have a nosey through the offerings at various bee conventions (though it’s saved me a few quid).

          Cheers
          David

          Reply
  8. Archie McLellan

    Hi David

    I’ve dipped into Storch from time to time but find it difficult to retain, or even usefully refer to. Whilst I totally agree with the principle of absorbing as much as possible of what’s going on before opening up a hive, I doubt that I manage to glean much info. The varroa board is informative, particularly in winter, though.

    I remember seeing a National Honey Show Q&A session in which the speakers were asked how much you could tell about a colony without opening up. The first speaker said, ‘Half, three quarters of what you need to know!’ Sadly he dried up after mentioning pollen.

    More recently, I heard one of the Basterfields dismiss Storch as (something along the lines of) someone who seemed to be letting his imagination run away from him. Oddly enough, I found that rather comforting!

    Thanks for the post, as always.

    Reply
    1. David Post author

      Hello Archie

      I think your honey show judge was being a bit optimistic … if it was anything like 50% you could probably do away with quite a few inspections over the season. However, there are things you can determine (or at least have a good guess at) so I still think it’s a worthwhile activity. It’s also an opportunity to gather my thoughts … have I got everything I’m going to need close to hand?

      The usual answer is ‘no’ 😉

      However, whilst some of Storch might be wishful thinking (as you say Ken or Dan Basterfield said) there is stuff that is useful. It’s worth remembering that some beekeeping practices and forage have changed since Storch wrote the book, so the relevance of parts of it is certainly questionable.

      Cheers
      David

      Reply
  9. Rachel Donachie

    Great post, always helpful to read about different scenarios and dramas! I laughed when I saw the title of your blog as I had just been dealing with one of my own bee dramas! I had a swarm in my garden on Thursday and then again yesterday, both unexpected as I thought I had done everything possible to avoid it happening! I had removed the Qs from both my colonies 2 weeks ago (nucleus method) removing them to my dads apiary, we ( my dad and myself) thoroughly checked through each hive leaving only one good QC ( so we thought). I was expecting no issues as thought I had done everything by the book, and then I witnessed them swarming! i managed to catch both swarms and hive them. I’m always a bit unsure of the best way to keep them once caught? I’m hoping they will stay but I know they might up and leave and I still don’t know if they are both from my stronger colony but will find out soon once I go into the hives next weekend. Bees don’t seem to follow the rule books so dramas appear to be inevitable. Rachel

    Reply
    1. David Post author

      Hi Rachel

      Presumably both swarms are casts with unmated queens.

      If they are casts the queen will need to go on a mating flight or two. Don’t go interfering with the hive when that might be happening – save any inspections for the end of the afternoon.

      I’m intending to write something about absconding in the future. I’ve got a few ideas about why some leave and others don’t. This is one of the reasons I prefer bait hives – they don’t abscond as they chose the location. There are also some strains that always/regularly abscond depending upon the time of the season (though these aren’t in the UK).

      Cheers
      David

      Reply
      1. Rachel Donachie

        Hi David, Thanks for your reply. Unfortunately I had a third swarm from the same hive today, luckily the bees are in my garden and I was able to watch them go into my neighbours garden and then retrieve them. I decided to go into the original hive to see what was going on. I discovered my original marked QC was still intact and had obviously failed, I knocked down 4 more sealed QC and left one. Despite all the fun (stress) I have still been able to catch all the bees and use every remaining piece of equipment of mine any my dads. It’s been a useful learning curve! I know never to be surprised by anything. 🙂

        Reply
        1. David Post author

          Hi Rachel

          Your dads bees will start swarming any time now 😉 When you’re leaving a single queen cell I usually try – despite the little bit of delay it imposes – to mark a frame with a single charged cell that’s still open. It’s very rare that they cap a cell like that off if it’s a dud.

          You may have done this already … all part of the fun of beekeeping. It may be stressful now, but you can look back fondly over these days during the interminable dark, damp winter (as you build more boxes and frames for next year).

          Cheers
          David

          Reply
  10. Meryl

    Just a note to say how much I enjoy your blogs. Thanks especially for the full references to papers, always very useful.

    Reply
    1. David Post author

      Hello Meryl

      Thank you. As a scientist, it’s second nature. I’m trying a couple of software tools to make the bibliography format a little more standardised. Now and again I also include PDF’s if they’re particularly relevant and tricky to access. However, many of them are behind a paywall and I’m pretty sure distributing the PDF would infringe some rule or other 🙁

      Cheers
      David

      Reply
  11. Iain Dewar

    Great post in a very unusual beekeeping year. We’ve spent the last 6 or 7 weeks chasing our tails trying to avoid swarms, getting splits queenright, and catching swarms that aren’t ours, and retrieving those that are. But this one takes the biscuit…. Leaving my house early yesterday I noticed a cardboard box lying on the lawn inside the gate, not unusual for litter to blow in, but an empty 8kg frozen prawn box was a bit much🙄. It seemed a little heavy when I lifted it but a quick look inside revealed a small swarm clinging together in the corner. There was also sugar scattered inside and a menu leaflet from the Indian restaurant next door. Turns out it arrived outside their window and settled on the pedestrian barrier much to the amusement of watching diners before a Nepalese waiter pretty competently scooped it into the box with the menu and gave it some sugar before depositing the open box in my garden. Could be the most unusual Indian Takeaway I’ve ever had! 🤔

    Reply
    1. David Post author

      Hello Iain

      Are you sure it was the waiter that delivered it and not Deliveroo?

      What excellent service. Most people spend May and June fending off invitations to move tree bumble bees and wasps … and you get bees delivered to the door! That certainly beats standing on a wobbly ladder over a stream/bed of nettles/uncomfortably hard and distant place to land trying to encourage a swarm to move into your skep.

      Cheers
      David

      Reply

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