Monday, 27 June 2011


It seems like ages since I completed my hives. They sit in the wriggly tin shed, patiently awaiting some occupancy.

The reason for the torturous delay has been thrift. Rather than going out to 'buy' some bees from an apiary, I have decided to acquire them from 'G' over at the adjacent plot.

His hives have had a hard winter and he's currently in the process of rebuilding them, getting in new nucleus's, queen cells etc, and allowing them to build up in numbers during this year to get his apiary back up to speed. He has six hives at the moment.

Anyway, yesterday I donned my virgin white bee-suit and broke out my brand new hive tool and smoker and ventured into G's apiary, more excited than nervous about my first close contact with so many bees.

Take me to your leader...
 You can laugh at the white wellies! 'G' didn't have wellies on, just sports shoes, and he paid the price. Bee stings all up the back of his legs! I stifled a laugh.

I was a bit amazed. As 'G' cracked open the first hive and I'd puffed smoke into the entrance and over the top of the frames, the pitch of the bees hum changed a bit. They didn't look or sound mad and I was remarkably calm (I wasn't sure how I'd react to be honest faced within inches of thousands of bees).

What we were looking for was the queen in this hive.

The idea, if I've understood it right, is this. 'G' has a nucleus hive (a small box containing up to five brood frames) into which he will place a couple of brood frames from a healthy hive. On these frames will be a queen cell and lots of eggs and grubs of other drone and worker bee cells.

(Left) capped off cells waiting to hatch, 
(mid) grubs in the making and 
(right) tiny eggs
We then take this nucleus, together with some bees from the healthy hive, over to my apiary and wait for the new queen to hatch. She'll then lay eggs for the new colony of bees. My bees.

A character trait to be bred out - 
gathering at the bottom of the frame
Unfortunately, there wasn't a viable queen cell yesterday to take so I've got to wait about ten days (checking regularly) to see if the bees in the hive will make one.

It was interesting to note that the temperament of the bees in each hive was slightly different. In one hive they were very placid bees, not really bothered by our interference, and in another they got very pissed off quite rapidly and bounced of the hood of my suit.

Despite the delay in getting my own little fellows, I realised that I have overcome what anxiety I may have had about handling bees. I was even putting my hands amongst them in the hive, gently touching them to get them to move so we could see the queen.

I've still got to clear Area 51 properly so I'll get onto that in the evenings this week to prepare for my bees arrival. Just got to be a bit more patient.

It's not like there aren't a million other jobs to do in the meantime.