The Great Escape

We arrived down on site mid-morning to be greeted with the news of a jail break. Millie had apparently managed to escape her isolation coop and had been wandering around the site! Fortunately, Liz and Sarah spotted her and with Cliff’s help, caught her and put her back in the main coop. It’s very lucky there wasn’t a fox about! Part of me was rather impressed, I have to admit it.

I had brought down the frozen chicken treats for our girls to try. I realised I had made far too many so I handed out some to Phil, Geoff and Cliff for their girls. Hopefully their chickens enjoy them! Our chicks seemed rather clueless about the treats so we left them to work it out. In the main coop, it was a different story. The girls immediately went for the ice disks, shoving each other out of the way in order to get at it. Even spacing out four treats, they still argued!

Phil swung by to tell us one of the hives had swarmed again. Steve wasn’t able to come down so it was up to us to save the bees! The spare hive was already set up and we removed four frames from the brood box ready to receive the bees. As we removed the frames, we spotted a lone bee. The strangest thing was that it looked like a small Queen. Just in case she was a queen, we put the queen excluder back on and headed off to get our bee suits on. The swarm had settled on a small bush at the edge of the Community Garden. We approached the swarm carefully. Phil’s job was to get the bag into place and I shook the tree. We managed to get quite a good amount of the swarm into the bag and quickly shook them out into the hive. Irate bees were everywhere so we backed off and let them settle for 10 minutes.

We watched the bees, trying to work out if they were settling in the hive or going back to the tree. When we checked the tree, we saw the swarm was still there albeit slightly smaller than before. Clearly, we hadn’t managed to get the Queen. A new plan was needed. Phil went to get his new tree loppers and between us, we cut the branch the swarm was on off the tree. Holding the cut branch with the entire swarm on it, Phil walked it to the hive. I removed the queen excluder and helped shake the bees off the branch into the hive. Quickly, we got the queen excluder back on and removed ourselves from the area.

Over the next fifteen minutes, we watched as the hive calmed down. Before we took off our suits, we put the frames back into the brood box, put the queen excluder, crown board and top of the hive back on. Hopefully they will settle in well! When Steve comes down later, all the hives will have a thorough check to see whether any others are on the point of swarming. By adding additional brood boxes, the chances of swarming are less as the bees have more room for their colony. However, it doesn’t always stop swarms. May is peak swarm month every year and we have had quite a few already this season. It could be something do to with the current heatwave.

Before I left, I went to see how the chicks were doing with their new ice treats. Answer, not well. The ice melts slowly, releasing the sweetcorn. To encourage them to try it, I tried hand feeding the corn to them. They still weren’t particularly impressed. I may try them with peas tomorrow instead.

2 thoughts on “The Great Escape

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  1. When I had bees, I was taught the old saying, “A swarm in May is A-okay! A swarm in June will need help soon. A swarm in July will surely die.” I’m sure the unusually warm weather you are having is contributing to the desire to swarm. The bees are able to work and collect pollen in record levels, without rain and storms keeping them indoors and washing pollen away. Love your sail shade and new paint!

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