My local Beekeepers Association met here recently to help me with my new hives.
I treated my two hives for the varroa disease and thankfully, they both came through the winter. In March, I was pleased to see that both hives were active with bees taking in pollen. I naively thought I had two, healthy colonies.
When it came to opening up the one hive, it was apparent that it was Queen-less due to there being no eggs present. Unfortunately, it was too late to save these bees as they have been without a queen for too long.
This hive had mouldy pollen in some of the cells which can easily be mistaken for chalk brood which is when the gut of the larvae have been attacked by a pathogen.
With this fated hive, the bee experts demonstrated a Bailey Comb Change which is usually used to change the brood comb in order to help prevent the build-up of disease. The Bailey Comb Change is a more holistic and gentler method than the shook swarm method where bees are literally shaken into a new hive with fresh foundation and the old brood comb burnt. With the Bailey Comb Change, the queen is put into a clean brood box above the old brood box with a Queen excluder between the two brood boxes; the bees then gradually move up into the new hive and eventually, the old brood box can be taken away. The one drawback is that the bees have to climb up through the old brood to get to the new brood.
For the remaining, good colony of bees (second hive), we moved the bees from their existing, old hive into a brand new hive. Most of the brood frames were so old that there were numerous, extra comb that the bees had formed which were great hiding places for the Queen. Only the frames with brood on were put into the new hive; these must be removed in about 13-15 days once the larvae have hatched out:
0-3 days eggs laid
3-5 days eggs turn into larvae
6-7 days unsealed larvae/brood
8 days sealed larvae/brood
13 days hatch
For the super frames, three or four old ones were put into the new super as easy food for the bees; these were placed in the middle, over the old brood so that the bees would be familiar with their old frames. We then damaged the food stores/cells so the bees will not repair, but take the nectar/pollen from the cells and put them into the new super frames. Once the old super frames are empty, these can be removed and replaced with new frames.
The Queen was not detected so it is hoped that she is in the new hive. This will become apparent during the next inspection in 3 days’ time – if there are no eggs, the Queen has been lost. However, the colony is strong enough to produce a Queen so it is not a disaster.
Lastly, the first hive we looked at which is Queen less was taken away and the individual frames were shaken. The objective is for the bees to return to where their old hive was and either die or fight their way into the new hive.
It was an informative evening, especially for me as a beginner. We were all rewarded with a cup of tea and a piece of my Mum’s home-made cake: coffee, Victoria sandwich, Lemon Drizzle or Millionaire’s Shortbread!