Those of you who read this column regularly may already know that I had all my beehives stolen in April from an apiary on open farm land just outside Hungerford. This incident left me reeling and sadly with only one remaining hive in another location. Well there is good news for Beekeeping in May as I am re-stocking and rebuilding!
The first course of action was to split my remaining hive into two. The idea was to take a few frames of brood, a few frames of food, a frame of empty drawn comb and some of the younger bees from the colony to make up a smaller nucleus hive. A queen would then be introduced to this nucleus. The first step was to open the original hive, find the resident queen and keep her safe until the split was made. She would remain with the original colony. I was helped by a very kind and experienced beekeeper throughout this process as my nerves were in shreds. With only one queen and one hive I couldn’t afford a disaster! So the split was made and now all we had to do was introduce the new queen to the nucleus. Mated queens can be purchased from reputable breeders and they come in the post, by Royal Mail (sorry). Her Majesty doesn’t travel alone, she comes with at least half a dozen attendants. The chance of other bees accepting a new queen is increased if you remove the attendants. So on a sunny evening we found ourselves sitting in my car with a small plastic cage that contained a lovely new mated queen and her ladies in waiting.
“Have you got a towel that we can cover all the gaps in the car with, we don’t want the queen flying into any of the air vents”
“Umm, no, sorry.”
“Not to worry, we can do this inside a plastic bag.”
So there we were, his hand inside a slightly frosty plastic bag and me holding the bag tightly round his wrist so that no-one escaped. Well it was quite tricky as the plastic didn’t offer the clearest visibility. The attendants weren’t too keen on their situation and proceeded to sting their liberator. A few choice words were issued before the mission was eventually completed leaving us with Her Majesty inside the plastic cage. This was placed into the nucleus and I was given the instructions to go back into the nuc in a few days time, destroy any queen cells that might have been under construction, release the plastic cap on the queen cage and then leave them all to it for 10 days. You guessed it, I missed a queen cell and 9 days later they swarmed with the newly introduced queen! But it was OK, I caught the swarm and housed them in a new hive – phew.
Now what? Well we did it all again introducing another purchased queen into the first nucleus. So that brought the hive count up to three. I hope you are all following this!! Anyway, to cut a very long story short I now have six small colonies. Due to the generosity and kindness of local beekeepers as well as a few well timed swarms that have come my way I now have the buzz back in my life which makes me very happy.