On or about the 31st of January, one of our bee colonies swarmed. Or, another bee colony in the neighbourhood did. Either way, we captured the swarm. It’s now 2 1/2 weeks later and we needed to get that baby colony into a more weatherproof box and check on its health. We stand in front of the hive spying on the darned thing all the time and sometimes we are heartened at the amount of activity and sometimes we worry.
So, off to the beekeeping supply shop to buy a few items like a new box, some spare frames and a bottom board (when will the expense side of this hobby end – oh right, never). Then home to move the swarm-colony into the new box, one frame at a time, inspecting as we go. We wanted to see: a) Were there many bees in there? b) Was the queen laying? c) Have any pest/disease/other problems developed in this tiny colony?
Step 1: Remove the lid and breathe a sigh of relief – there are a lot of bees in there (“a lot” being relative). The small colony is growing.
Step 2: Inspect the frames. It looked to us like the bees are both storing nectar on its way to becoming honey and eating the store of honey we provided. I suspect in the first few days they did more eating than gathering and hopefully that balance has changed as their numbers increase. The frame below was about 75% capped when we moved it to the nuc, now it’s maybe 50% capped.
Step 3: Check out the brood. Some of the old brood has hatched and new larvae & eggs are in its place. We spotted the queen (woo hoo) and she is laying on the frame next to where the old brood was. We saw bunches of eggs on the frame where we found the queen. It looks like all is well with her.
Below is a photo of the honeycomb with eggs – they are those tiny rice-grain-like white things in the bottom of some of the cells. The curly fat white grubs (left side) are the larvae. The pupae are under those light brown caps (upper left). And, of course, there are mature bees walking on the comb. The one pointing down is very young – you can tell because she still has a lot of hair on her back (thorax) which will fall out through wear and tear as she ages.
Below is a photo of the queen. She’s the long golden bee. The photo is a bit fuzzy because she doesn’t like posing for the camera. You can’t see her head, it’s buried under a pile of worker bees.
Step 4: Empty the temporary nuc of all 4 frames and install a new divider board (to replace the styrofoam) in the new box to keep the hive a manageable size (for the bees) until the colony grows and we can add more frames. The bees probably could handle a couple more frames now but we need to prepare some with foundation.
We’re very happy with this little swarm and are sure it will keep building up nicely. Of course we don’t really want it to build up because we don’t want 3 hives. But we don’t want it to die either. The plan is to merge it back into its original hive in autumn. Unless we bump into someone who’s keen to start a new hive. We’ll see how we go. Until then, this little one-box hive sits happily in our “bee garden” and does its bee-thing at its own pace.