Madam and the Gels

Ferried by my kind Beekeeping Mentor to the Tregothnan estate to see how the bees are doing: Madam is in her new house, quite perked up by last week\’s adventure, laying away and looking very elegant, while the gels have drawn comb on no fewer than six frames.
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Meanwhile the bees in the parent hive have five queens waiting in their sealed queen cells, plus one larva still munching the royal jelly. Some beekeepers say you should destroy all but one of the queen cells, some say you should let cruel mother nature take her course – and any two beekeepers will normally have three to five opinions on the subject.
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I tend to prefer laisser faire so we left them and hope the queens don\’t wipe each other out when they fight. Apparently, the worker bees sometimes hold the younger queens back in their cells until the first to hatch has got back safely from her mating flight and started to lay. That way they have a failsafe if a bird eats her – very clever.
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All seemed well in the two little cities so we put the roofs back on and left.

Bee busy

I couldn\’t do any thing yesterday because I was rushing around – I had to be ferried to the Tregothnan estate by my Beekeeping Mentor as my gels were plotting another swarm. I\’m rather offended by this as the colony I\’ve been looking after has just been split and Madam and half the bees were moved in their lovely new hive to a lovely new place full of flowers near the only tea-growing estate in England.
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No dice. We counted five queen cells with larvae and royal jelly in them on Saturday and once the process has started, it\’s not really possible to stop. And these are notorious swarmy bees anyway. So Beekeeping Mentor drove me back on Sunday, having made eleven brood frames for me. I got number 2 son to hammer in the final nails so the gels would have a roof and we did some cunning swapping of hives so that the gels would think they\’d swarmed already and calm down about it.
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In the process we nearly lost Madam. We were transferring her in a queen trap to a brood frame with no queen cells – two queens in one hive will fight to the death – when Madam just climbed up and flew off. We couldn\’t see her anywhere and we were about to give up when I luckily found her again just next to my foot. A moment later and she was back in her new hive – very relieved we were too.
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I hope she\’s got over her mad lust for adventure. You\’re a bee, Madam. Birds would eat you. Stay put now, please.

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.