Well, it's queen Dorothy! Regular readers will remember that she was last seen in June last year, heading off to her new home in Southcot burial ground. The big news is - she's back! And I have bees again! Here's how it happened:
Towards the end of April, Jessica (Dorothy's new beekeeper) got in touch to say that she'd been doing a bailey comb change (in which the beekeeper temporarily puts a second brood box on the hive to encourage the bees to draw new comb). But the bees had started to make queen cells, and Jessica wanted a second opinion before starting any swarm control.
I went down to meet Jessica at her hive - with an empty nuc in hand, just in case we needed it. When we opened up, the hive was very busy, and there were lots of queen cells. We decided there were enough bees and queen cells to do a three-way split, so we:
- Found the frame with Dorothy on, and moved it into the nuc, along with two other frames, and added one empty frame to give the bees something to do.
- Moved five frames (including bees and queen cells) into a new hive, with some fresh frames to fill the remaining space.
- Left the rest of the frames (with bees and queen cells) in the original hive, and padded out the space with fresh frames.
Then we waited 2½ weeks to see if new queens had emerged in the hives, and had started laying. They had! We checked the nuc - all was well, and I added another empty frame. And Jessica very generously offered to let me have Dorothy back, so that I could re-start beekeeping.
So, a couple of weekends ago (on 25th May) I arranged to meet Jessica to check on the nuc again. Both her new queens were still laying, so we marked them each with a dot of paint. Then we did a final check on the nuc - all well, and Dorothy was still laying happily. I returned at dusk to collect the nuc and move it back to my apiary. I put it next to hive #1, to make things nice and easy for moving the bees into the hive.
Three days later, I was ready to move the bees into their new home in hive #1. Here's a photo of the nuc - with roof removed - and the hive, with an empty space to move the frames into:
Normally, it's a simple matter of moving the frames across and closing up the hive. However, Jessica had been keeping her bees in a deep brood box, which is three inches deeper than my standard national. The new frames I'd put in were national (14" x 9") sized, so that was fine. Two of the three old frames were also national sized, and the bees had simply extended three inches of comb down from the bottom of the frames. This was easily dealt with - I cut the excess comb off the bottom of the frames and put it aside (to burn later).
But one of the frames was a 14" x 12" frame that Jessica had put in. There was plenty of brood and I didn't want to lose the frame. So I decided I'd just have to cut off the bottom three inches. A sharp pair of secateurs did the job nicely:
And that was it - the last frame put in place, a few new frames to to give the bees something to work on, and my new, old bees are back!