BASTARD WASPS

God, I hate wasps. One of my hives was being raided by them on Sunday and had just a few sad bees left – the silly sausages only went and swarmed in August so they just didn\’t have the numbers to fight off the wasps. Also they probably didn\’t get a new queen. May I say that most of the beekeeping books say bees don\’t swarm in August, but it\’s obvious the girls weren\’t reading them.
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This is a constant cause for complaint among beekeepers in the CBKA. There are all these great books about bees around, but the bees just won\’t do their homework and find out what they\’re supposed to do.
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I was very worried about my other hive too, but it turned out I was panicking unnecessarily. Today I went to look again with my incredibly patient bee mentor Mike. It turns out, they had lots of brood, plenty of stores and were vigorously guarding the hive – yay! Kill those evil bastards! Go bees, go!

BEE DEMOCRATIC

I\’ve been enthralled by a wonderful book about bees – this one is called \”Honeybee Democracy\” by Thomas D. Seeley. It\’s beautifully produced, beautifully written and tells the story of how a colony of bees swarms and finds a new place to live. Not only does he tell the story – he also explains how he knows. The book gives the painstaking scientific background to a fully formed scientific statement. When he says what kind of hollow tree bees prefer, he knows because he\’s checked. I admit his explanation is hard to read because it involved poisoning bees with cyanide. That was back in the heedless 1970s though. I think Seeley would do it differently today.
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You don\’t need to be interested in bees to be amazed by the story of how a swarm of bees effectively vote on where they\’re going to live – politicians and historians might find insight into ways a large group can come to a decision as fairly and efficiently as possible.
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The only criticisms I can think of are the cost of the book (it\’s gone down since I last checked) and the fact that being a large hardback makes it difficult to read in bed – for goodness\’ sake, will somebody please publish Seeley\’s work in paperback?

Bee Good

I actually forgot when I did my blog yesterday that I went to check my bees in the morning, so I wasn\’t really faffing all the time. I\’ve just got my first hive from splitting the club hive I looked after all last year – one that belongs to my local beekeeping group (Hi Roseland Group!).
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What me and my mentor, Mike, did to split the colony was this: from the beginning of April we checked them every few days until we saw some sealed Queen cells (they look like long pointed peanut shells stuck to the bottom of the brood comb). Then we found the old Queen (or, as I call her, Madam) and put the brood frame she was on straight into a new brood box. Then we took about three other combs with sealed brood in it and two of stores, plus the bees on the frames. Then we sealed up the new brood box and drove it more than three miles away to an apiary on the Tregothnan estate where a very nice fellow member called Norma had offered me space to put it.
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When a bee colony swarms, the old Queen is the one who flies away, leaving her royal daughters in the old hive. So by taking Madam and about half the colony we essentially did the swarming for them and they went straight into their lovely new home without having to hang from trees or send out scouts or risk a bird eating Madam. Much more convenient for them and for me. In fact, as I said to Mike, I think we caught them just in time: we split the colony at 10.30 and when we did it, there were two sealed Queen cells and half the bees had their heads in the honey cells glugging honey. I think if we\’d come at 1.00 pm as I wanted to , they\’d already have gone.
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Madam has been laying mightily in the lovely weather – and I find it quite fascinating to look at them working away. Just like SimCity with aliens.