A couple of days ago, together with 6 other members of our beekeeping group, I took my basic beekeeping exam. Although I’m in my second year I’ve only had my own bees for just over 12 months.
There is a practical element to the exam where we have to inspect a hive (not our own) and comment on what we see. And also an oral test with the examiner asking g lots of questions about the lifecycle of bees, how to manage swarms and what diseases and pests there are.
I think I did ok on the exam, but I’ll know for sure in about a week. One of the main benefits of passing is that I can then manage my bees on my own without having to have someone with me. Plus the fact it means my knowledge is at an ok point right now.
There is still a lot to learn, see and do but the advantage of joining a group is that there are experienced people around to learn from and help us along the way.
I think the next exam is on Bee health but I’ll have a little break before diving in to that one. Think I’ll save it for the winter when there’s not much to do at the apiary. The bees don’t hibernate but they get less active and don’t leave the hive very often.
Two weeks ago I had two hives with queen cells where the queen had emerged and I was waiting for them to mate and start laying. The smaller of the two hives (the nucleus hive) has a laying queen and is doing ok. The main hive there was no sign of the queen or any eggs or larvae.
Last week we added a new open queen cell to the hive. If the original queen was there the bees would destroy the cell. They didn’t, so she must have failed for some reason or never came back from her mating flights. She might have been picked off by a bird who thought she was a tasty snack; we’ll never know.
Now I have to wait for the next queen to emerge and see what happens. Hopefully she’ll mate properly and make it back to the hive and start producing lots more bees.
After the last couple of weeks’ activity I can’t wait to see what my ‘girls’ have been up to since I last checked on them.
Went to check whether or not they were behaving themselves but because of the weather we didn’t dare open the hive up.
Haven’t seen so much rain in one session for a while. Fortunately the hive is on a hill so there was no risk of flooding. There was also some pretty big claps of thunder which bees don’t like.
Have to wait until the weather improves for the next update. In the meantime I’ve started studying in earnest for my ‘basic’ exam later in the year. They call it basic but actually it’s pretty full on and there’s a lot to learn. It’s a combination of practical and theory. I’m certainly more comfortable on the practical, handling bees and gives bit. Need to knuckle down and get to grips with the theory.
Remember last week with all the queen cells? Well the little tinkers have gone and made another one. Looks like a supercedure cell too. Guess they’re not happy with the existing queen. So that’s six in total; four are sealed ready to go; one is charged; one is a bit runty. Do I need to change my plan?
Not according to my mentor. Well, not drastically anyway. What I haven’t said is this week there are no signs of any eggs. I have small larvae ranging up to capped brood but no eggs.
The new queen cell we’ll keep to make a new queen for my existing hive. There are two queen cells on one frame and I’ll donate those to the group hives as they need some new queens due to losses over the winter. I’ll keep one decent queen cell to put in the poly nuc to make a new hive for me.
One other thing to add into the mix is that the workers are quite happily chaining to make wax. I’m told that is a sign that the original queen is possibly still around. Can’t wait until next week to find out what other tricks my girls have in store for me. One thing I know for sure is that they are good at keeping stores. Just wish they were in the supers so I could steal a bit from them.
Aaagh, it’s all happening very quickly at the moment. First proper inspection of the year and what do I find; queen cells, that’s what. Not one, or even two, but five; and three of them are charged. So my little girls are up to mischief.
Fortunately I have a very good mentor to help me this year and he knows exactly what to do. The plan is to split the hive and I’ll end up with two, which is good because there’s exactly what I want. But what’s the best way?
Don’t know if this is the ‘best way’ but we’ve shaken all the bees into the bottom brood box and put the queen excluder on top, then put the two supers on followed by the second brood box that contains all the queen cells. Then next week, armed with a poly nuc, we’ll leave the old queen where she is and put the queen cells in the nuc. Wait for the new queen to hatch, mate and start laying. At that point I’ll put them into a proper National hive and away we go.
What could possibly go wrong?!