We've lost a queen
I've had a bit of an anxious time over the past couple of days waiting for a call from my beehive landlord saying that the bees have left the hive and are swarming. Why? Well, because when I went into the poly hive on Saturday I saw loads of charged queen cells (charged means that there is larvae inside them) and there were a couple that were already sealed. If a queen cell is sealed it's almost certain that the bees will swarm imminently if they haven't done so already.
Saturday's plan was to do swarm control on the poly hive. Essentially, trick the bees into thinking they have swarmed by splitting the colony when they haven't even left the hive. The plan was to use this swarm control method from the BBKA which I'd used last year to great success. The only problem is that this method relies on you finding the queen. She is a new queen from late last summer and I never had a chance to mark her. I went through the hive twice and couldn't spot her. I also read once that a queen that is about to swarm really slims down so it's easier for her to fly but it makes it super hard to spot her.
I didn't know what to do, so I broke down the queen cells and closed up the hive while I went home to read up about a swarm control method I can carry out without finding the queen. I couldn't get to the hives for the next two days - hence waiting for the call that I'd missed a queen cell and the bees had swarmed. Anyway, today I went back with a swarm control method planned. Essentially you move the hive to one side and put a new hive in its place (good thing I have a freshly painted yellow poly hive). You then take one frame of eggs and larvae out of the old hive and put in the new one. So, I started to go through the hive to look for such a frame when I realised that there were no eggs or larvae in the hive! This means that the queen is dead or failing and the bees are trying to replace her. Thankfully I found one sealed queen cell still in tact, which I left. She will hopefully hatch in 8 days, go on a mating flight and then start laying.
Meanwhile, the Beehaus colony seems well and expanding rapidly.
I spotted a few queen cups, which could be a sign that the colony is thinking of swarming too so I need to keep a close eye on them too.
I moved the poly hive colony into the yellow hive. The green one is pretty manky after the slugs had taken up residence in the hive over winter. I'm going to clean it and paint it too and use as spare hive to carry out swarm control on the Beehaus if I need to.
Here is the reason for all the yellow faces - fields of nearby oilseed rape.