I have my Basic Assessment examination at the Apiary on Friday. I am doing lots of reading and have invested in a magnifying glass to help me identify eggs. Knowing the answers and making a coherent and concise response are not the same, so we will have to see how it goes. Making a frame in hot weather with soggy wax will be very challenging so not looking forward to that bit. I had considered taking a cool bag with freeze blocks in it but that is probably a bit eccentric even for me! Collecting 30 bees in a matchbox from the entrance to the hive is also a potential disaster area. Our experienced tutor only managed to catch 2 after several attempts. This is because there are no landing boards on the hives at the Apiary and also the colonies are quite small so not many bees entering and exiting. One of the group suggested a vacuum cleaner! Not sure how that would go down. It will be embarrassing to fail, but the main thing for me has been the learning, camaraderie with the rest of the group and the acid test really is can I keep healthy and productive bee colonies rather than can I pass an exam.
The bees in the home hive survived the formic acid treatment although it seems to have put the queen off laying at the rate she was before. Not surprising.
On Monday I prepared everything for the arrival of a new queen by taking 2 frames of stores and three with brood and 'house bees' and putting them into a nucleus 'nuc' hive a few yards away from the original hive. I also put a rapid feeder full of thin sugar syrup on to keep them happy. The theory is that when the split away bees notice a lack of 'Queen Substance', the pheromone produced by the queen bee that keeps the colony content, they start to create queen cells from some of the young brood laid by their mother the Green Queen.
Yesterday the new Blue Queen arrived by post with some attendant bees. I had warned the postman and asked him to knock rather than squeeze the box through the letter box and have it drop on the floor. He ignored this. The bees arrived in a plastic cage in a standard brown envelope and crashed to the ground through the letter box. They all seemed to be moving about so I put the envelope in a dark cupboard to settle down. Meanwhile I smoked and then checked the nuc, removed a couple of early queen cells and made sure the Green Queen had not slipped onto one of the frames before I transported them from the other hive. I sprayed the frames and bees with a thin sugar solution with a touch of vanilla essence to masque the impact of the new queen's pheromone smell. I then introduced the Blue Queen into the nuc in her little travelling cage which has fondant at one end. I remembered to remove the plastic cap to expose the fondant and carefully made a hole in the fondant with a blunted cocktail stick making sure that I did not stab the queen. The process is that over the next few days the bees in the nuc who originated in hive 1 will get used to the smell of the new queen and will release her by eating away the fondant. The unthinkable scenario is that they are not impressed by her and kill her.
The colony need minimal intervention but I did an external check but there were no bees flying. It is a rather dull day and of course the hive is populated by young 'house bees' as any more mature 'flying bees' would have returned to their original home in hive 1. I gently lifted the lid and checked on the syrup. Unfortunately two bees had drowned in it. I removed them. I then lifted the crown board and could see that the fondant was not fully eaten away so the queen has not yet bee released. This is probably a good thing as it gives the colony more time to get used to her smell. I then gently closed the hive up and will leave until tomorrow to see if the fondant has been eaten and then if it has, try and control myself from lifting out the frames to assure myself that the queen is alive and moving through the colony. This I should leave for a week but suspect that I will succumb to curiosity by the weekend. Until then I had better concentrate on 'cramming' for the bee examination on Friday. I will have to check for and remove any queen cells by next Monday as the last thing I need is to lose this queen.
Hopefully by my next entry I will have scraped through the 'not so' Basic Assessment with a pass and the Blue Queen will be happily laying in the nuc.
I have also been advising a school on setting up a hive and creating a pollinator friendly garden and re-designing the labels and packaging for my honey and candles so all in all my head is permanently 'full of bees'.