Part 1: Are An Introduced Queen & A Swarm Related?
I introduce a queen to a colony and a swarm goes over my garden a few hours later. Are these incidents related? I don’t know the answer to this question, yet. I’ll post next week.
I am down to one hive after 2 seasons of weak colonies, wax moths, wasps and lets be honest, some bad beekeeping, so it was with crossed fingers I went to carry out my first inspection of the season.
At first glance all looked good, with bees coming and going … but I could also observe they were not bringing in any/much pollen, which was a worry.
In the hive there were no eggs, larvae or capped brood. This was a big worry! No pollen, but plenty of honey stores. About 6 frames of bees. I found the marked queen. Luckily no cells with multiple eggs, which would have been a sign of Laying Workers.
I assume the queen has stopped laying and I assume there isn’t a virgin queen as there is no brood from which a virgin could have been made in the last few weeks. I assume the Queen is producing enough pheromone to stop bees becoming Laying Workers.
I went online and bought a queen (delivery was going to take about 10 days).
To reduce risk of bees becoming workers, I added a frame of eggs from a friends hive (thanks Carolyn).
Introducing Queen (10 Days Later)
There is some best practice with how to introduce a queen but being (A) not a great beekeeper, (B) time limited (full time job and kids at home under lockdown) and (C) reducing the chance of beekeeper error, I did the minimum. Doing the minimum does reduce the risk of the bees not accepting her … but I calculated this was a lower risk than me losing or injuring the queen.
So, I killed the current queen, removed the plastic tabs from the end of the queen cage and popped the cage into the hive.
I’ll inspect in 7 to 10 days to see if there are eggs or a dead queen.
So, I did all the above in the morning. Three hours later a large swarm went through our front garden, down the cul de sac, over a few neighbours gardens and then seemed to settle in a hole in a tree (high up). Luckily the neighbours found the swarm reduced some of the monotony of lockdown and I shouted out to anyone that would listen that “it wasn’t mine” (probably wasn’t mine would have been more accurate).
I don’t think it was mine for the following reasons:
- Earlier the same day, I had both killed the queen (definitely) and left a queen in a cage which will take a few days to get her out of
- I presume there wasn’t a virgin queen in my hive (I hope)
- I think the swarm was too big (about 15,000 bees by my estimate: 30m long swarm x 10m wide x 5m high, with density of 10 bees per cubic metre – has any one got better ideas of how to estimate a flying swarm size?)
However, I’ll find out when I next inspect and you can find out in Part 2.
There was another swarm the next day, that passed 20m from my house. Starting to get excited about the season. I need more bees, so I’ve ordered some Vita swarm attractant wipes (blog sponsor) and set up a nuc box.
Hope all going well with the start to your beekeeping seasons.
I also found these little wasp nests in the upstairs window sill. Spring is in full flow.