And we're back to three colonies

As I've mentioned many times on this blog before, you ask six beekeepers one question and you are guaranteed of getting six different answers. So, you can imagine the confusing pickle I was in following my previous blog post. 

But my very wise mentor Nicky, who is currently having a small break from beekeeping following the birth of her daughter, sent me a message recommending that I take the advice of one experienced beekeeper and go with that. So, I emailed Mike Townsend, just such an experienced and knowledgeable beekeeper, on Sunday. Although he was tied up, he could spare some time on Wednesday (today) to visit me and the bees.

In the meantime I called Steven Sidaway, the beekeeper who collected my colony that swarmed exactly a week ago today. He had some very sound advice, which I decided to act upon.

So, now I have three colonies:

  1. The 'tree bees' in the wooden hive I've left alone, apart from removing a frame of brood and eggs.
  2.  The small queenless colony on the left of the Beehaus I merged with the colony on the right. I am not sure if the right hand colony has a virgin queen but an easy way to check is to put a frame of eggs (from the 'tree bees') into the hive and they'll make queen cells if they are queenless. I'll go back in towards the end of this week and knock down all queen cells apart from one.
  3. Now, with the left hand side of the beehaus empty, on Monday evening I transferred the swarm colony from the nuc box. I did this as gently as I could and two days later, the bees are still there and buzzing away. 
Mike Townsend gave me a ring this morning to ask whether I still needed him to come round today. I didn't as I've carried out the manipulation above as Steven suggested. However, I did have a good chat to Mike over the phone and he also relayed what a 'swarmy' year we've had. 

We got talking about the Beehaus and to be honest, although I love the look of it I just wonder if it does in some way have a part to play in all my woes this year. Mike says that although he has no experience of this type of hive (essentially a Dartington) he knows of three experienced beekeepers that have been trialling a Beehaus and all of them say that although it's an adequate hive it is extremely difficult to get the bees to make any surplus honey in the supers. What Mike suggests I do is to keep the beehaus as a queen rearing hive to keep nuclei in but then get a 'normal' national or WBC hive to house my main colony. 

I think I may do just that when I give Nicky her 'tree bee' hive back at the end of the season. Although I love keeping bees and today at lunchtime I just sat watching them for ages marvelling at how they work (photos below), I would really love to have some honey this year. As my husband says, that first jar will be well earnt and worth an absolute fortune considering what I've spent on the bees this year.


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