The allotment goes bee-serk

Today I ambled down to the allotment determined to do something more productive than just feeding the chickens. I arrived to find the site busy, the warm sunny weather has brought everyone out. It was good to see Mick the Greek back after a short spell unwell in hospital.

Chickens were fed and seem very pleased with their new coop arrangements. Although this may not last long! Today there were 5 eggs which is quite a good haul for these older ladies. The chickens spent most of the day either scratching at the soil, eating weeds or sunbathing. What a life they do have!

Steve appeared on site as I was just deciding whether to finish hoeing a section of the plot or do something else. He appeared to be on the phone and was talking bees as he went past. Seeing as a bee check was imminent, I pottered across to the feisty hive to have a look. What I saw was odd and took me a few minutes to work out what I was seeing.

The hive was swarming. There were bees all over the nuc box, on the stand and everywhere else. Steve came down and asked me to find a cardboard box to put the bees in. I ran about the site fruitlessly searching. In the meantime, Steve found a swarm box – a wooden box designed to hold a swarm. Whilst I suited up in full bee gear, Steve had called Phil and asked him to come and help. I then took some photos and sent them to the bee mentor to show him what was in happening.

Steve quickly got the soft bee brush and began trying to sweep the bees into the swarm box. To be fair to him, he got a decent amount in before he started to get stung. And stung repeatedly. On the face too. He beat a hasty retreat to get his bee jacket and hood. Next, Phil arrived and all of us suited up, we spent the next 10-15 minutes trying to transfer bees from the outside of the nuc box to the swarm box with differing amounts of success. Once we had got most of them into the swarm box, Steve called his mentor again. Dan recommended that we leave them to calm down for half an hour before transferring the swarm into a new hive.

ll well and good but we didn’t have all the components to make a third hive at zero notice. Steve rushed off home to pick up the hive stand and make the hive lid and brood frames. Phil and I got busy putting together as much of the hive as we could – we found and filled a super with frames and fashioned a rough temporary lid for the hive. We spent a good while observing the bees. They seemed to have calmed down with the remaining bees on the nuc dropping in number as the minutes passed, the main hive back to normal flow of bees and the swarm box omitting the odd bee.

Steve was gone a couple of hours so Phil and I got back to doing jobs. Phil kindly let me dig up some offshoots from his comfrey and I have planted half a dozen along the edge of the allotment next to Mick’s plot. Hopefully they will grow well and provide not only nice flowers for the bees but natural fertiliser for the plot.

I then headed off to the strawberry bed where the plants are being overtaken by mare’s tail. I loathe this weed. It never seems to disappear no matter how often I take it out. I got half way around the edge of the bed by the time Steve came back.

Steve arrived back with a host of key hive parts and equipment. He constructed the brood box quickly before making the hive opening smaller to restrict the number of bees that can go out at one time. We suited up again and opened the swarm box to find a plethora of bees. Some were on the brood frames incidence swarm box but the majority were lining the walls of the box. Steve shook the swarm box, dislodging several thousand bees before using the bee brush to get the remaining ones out. We then stuck on the Queen excluder, super and lid as quickly as possible.

So it would seem that Steve and Phil may well get two additional hives rather than the one they were planning on. The bees in the nuc are still there and have increased in number. We may have to buy a queen to go into that as apparently the Queen cell isn’t sealed until 7 days old. Unfortunately we removed several unsealed Queen cells in the last inspection, one of which may have had the new Queen in. She isn’t visible as she is buried in royal jelly. Only time will tell I guess.

We briefly opened up the main hive to find there were still lots bees but I thought they seemed calmer than before. If the Queen isn’t in the hive made from the swarm, the colony should make themselves a new Queen. Hopefully….

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