A group of us visited the association apiary on Sunday 29th May.
The weather was lovely sunny and warm, about 18C, so a good afternoons beekeeping was had.
In attendance were Mandy, David, Emma, Daniel, Jo, Eric, Helen and Peter.
We went through the hives in the usual order, weakest to strongest. We were looking to see that they were building up well and there was no signs of swarming.
This was true and all the colonies were looking well, with fully laid up brood frames and busy foragers.
The only puzzle came with the last and strongest hive. Last inspection, 3 weeks ago, this had had almost wall to wall brood and a second brood box had been added in the meantime. Now there was no brood at all in either of the brood boxes, except a solitary charged queen cell! This puzzled us for a while until we looked in the supers (3 of these (its a BIG colony)) and discovered that was where the brood was, and presumably the queen, although try as we might, we couldn’t find her. Since we want to split this colony asap now we put queen excluders between each of the 2 full and 1 half brood boxes so that we can narrow the search and hopefully find her next time.
In retrospect, I remember that we put a queen excluder in at the last inspection without seeing the queen and assumed she was in the main brood box. So not a good assumption and compounded by the fact that this wasn’t in the hive notes. I’ll plead guilty to that because I’m pretty sure it was me who was writing the notes. So must try harder at keeping good notes, especially in a communal apiary where folk doing the inspection may only have the notes to go on for the history of the hive.
A last interesting point as Helen pointed out at the time – the queen cell in the brood box, charged with royal jelly, could not have been laid in by the queen because she was trapped above the excluder and had been for 3 weeks. So the only way the queen cell could have been started was that the bees had transported an egg or young larvae into that queen cup.
Hopefully we can get out to the apiary again this Sunday 5th June, catch that elusive queen and split our bumper colony to avoid them swarming.