First look in at the new swarm

I was feeling slightly apprehensive about my lunchtime visit to the bees. What if they'd all upped sticks and disappeared? Actually, I knew they hadn't, what I was more concerned about was their temperament. Was I being daft going in just wearing a pair of surgical latex gloves?

On @cotswoldsbees recommendation, I collected some pine cones and used that in the smoker which worked a treat. Lovely smell and it lasted for a long while too. I must say that one of the best things about being a beekeeper is the burnt wood smell that stays on your hands all day. I love it. 

So, with a few puffs it was time to go in. The first thing I noticed was how busy the entrance was - it makes my old bees look positively lazy (rest their little souls). 

As you can see from this pic, there is lots of activity going on. 

I also spotted a number of queen cups, six of which were on this frame! According to my Haynes 'Bee Manual', this is normal and does not indicate a colony is preparting to swarm until you see the sides of the cup being elongated and an egg laid inside. None of the ones I spotted seemd to have an egg in them but I scrapped them away just in case. I'd like my bees to stay put for awhile please.

Bees may also want to swarm if there is not enough room in the hive so I'm pleased I bought two extra frames to put inside. They could also be building queen cups if the queen is no longer there but I did spot Queen Pippa in all her big bottomed glory. Phew.

I'm not sure whether you can see clearly from the above pic but if you look down between the farmes you can spot chains of bees. Basically what the bees are doing is called festooning, hanging together, leg-to-leg, between the frames. According to an explanation nicked from HoneyBeeSuite, beekeepers have lots of explanations for this behaviour  Some say the bees are “measuring” the distance between frames, some say the structure acts like a scaffolding from which the bees build comb, some say bees can only produce wax from the festooning position. Scientists, however, are much less confident about the function of festooning. Jürgen Tautz the world-renowned German bee biologist at the University of Würzburg says, “The function of the living chain that is formed by bees where new combs are being built, or old combs repaired, is completely unknown.”

A small bee conference

So, I left a happy beekeeper. Fingers crossed I didn't miss a queen cup that may be turned into a queen cell....


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