As my husband, Tony, had tickets for the Ladies' Semi Finals at Wimbledon I arranged for my experienced friend Alison to check over my hive and see if the new queen was laying satisfactorily.
Yesterday I sent Alison an e-mail to ask for news (I was a bit anxious that I had not damaged the queen in anyway when I trapped and marked her last week - you have to be so careful with legs and abdomen and it had been a bit daunting). News came back that the apiary manager was having a bit of a 'shake up' and combining hives together, creating artificial swarms presumably to ensure that the colonies were equalised in size. He also decided to kill two of the less effective queens and replace them with the new ones that had been nurtured from other hives. She wrote 'he asked me to dispatch the queen from Hive 1'. Oh poor thing, she survived being squashed and daubed with green paint by me only to be 'dispatched'. Alison continued, 'to cut a long story short, when I found her he agreed that she looked good and admitted maybe we should wait and see if she speeded up her laying etc. so she is still in residence'. Poor Alison being asked to 'do in' my queen. 'Green Queen' therefore lives but on 'death row'. If she doesn't get her team organised in the next few weeks I think I will be asked to do the 'dispatching'. I appreciate that we need a healthy and thriving apiary and if Hive 1 is not up to speed then the colony is unlikely to survive the winter which is awful for them and depressing for me - so I am grateful for the advice and support and if necessary it will be 'off with her head'.
I have been putting a greased varroa board in for three days at a time to see what the mite drop is. High, but all dead, as opposed to pootling around or lying on their backs wiggling their legs. I trust that the fumes killed mites in the egg cells and that in the next couple of weeks their will be no new mites emerging and the drop will reduce down.
The weather has been great and the workers so busy that I added an additional super (no 3) during the week. As usual it started raining at hive inspection time on Saturday morning. Tony says that the bees make it rain to keep me away! So we inspected them yesterday. All very busy. Guess who was hiding? but I saw plenty of newly hatched larvae and the bees were calm and busy and no sign of queen cells or bags being packed for a little journey so I am pretty sure that she is fine. Slightly erratic laying pattern to be kept an eye on. No new wild comb architectural structures (see image above) on the other short frames and drone brood now in the wild comb on the one frame I left for that purpose. This is to be culled and examined next week as varroa mites prefer drone brood at is takes longer to mature and this is one way of attracting the mites to a place where they can be counted and destroyed - but that means dispatching drones - sorry boys! I added another new frame so now the brood box is nearly full - unfortunately the queen is still laying on the old frames at the end. I will get rid of them as soon as I can without having to sacrifice too much brood, which we need now to build up to full strength and bring in stores before the winter.
It looks like I should buy another hive and some other paraphenalia soon. Good thing that I am not keeping bees to make money - they are a total money pit.
General Bee-related Activity
I read something every day about bees - no surprise there! Often it is technical but I am also reading more widely. This week I re-read the section in Lark Rise to Candleford where Queenie talks to the bees about her day. I have also started a book written about life and bee-keeping in Kosovo. More to report on this in future weeks.
I have also been researching jars, legal requirements of labelling honey and found a couple of outlets for the future. I do not expect to have any surplus this year. Honey labels from Thornes will conform to legal requirements about content and size but they really are horrible and also one needs to buy so many which is not a sensible investment, especially if lot number and best before dates are printed on them. I have therefore designed some possible labels for home printing: one rustic and one fresh and simple. Both have a bee-skep as this is on my other bee-product related materials and you cannot use flower pictures unles you can guarantee that nectar from these flowers makes up the majority of the honey. I don't think people like pictures of insects on food and there is so much wording required that a tiny label can look a mess. As there is Hackney Farm Honey and London Fields Honey I am going for Hackney Garden Honey.
Everyone I meet seems interested in 'bee trivia' so from now on I will include a random bee fact in each blog so here is the first:
BEE FACT NO 1
It takes one bee a whole lifetime to produce a teaspoonful of honey.