Avid blog readers will remember that earlier this season, I attempted to change the brood comb in hive number 2 (ruled at the time by Florence, now Caroline's hive) - this is something I try to do every year, as it prevents impurities, viruses and spores building up in the wax. My progress was described here and here. Then the bees started to make queen cells, and eventually deposed Florence. Oops.
Part of the problem, I think, was that both colonies were quite small - so my swapping combs around seems to have disrupted the harmony of Florence's hive (though I suspect the bees may have got rid of her anyway). But it did have the benefit of building Miriam's hive up quickly, which led to my bumper harvest, so it wasn't all bad.
However, I didn't get the chance to change Miriam's comb in the spring, which is when I normally do it. So, I've decided to do it now. There are two reasons for this: firstly, because I need to, as it's now overdue. But secondly, I've realised that now is actually a better time than spring to change the comb. In spring the bees are still building up the colony size after winter, and they need to put their energy into raising brood; making new comb is an unwelcome distraction. Whereas at this time of year, just after the harvest, there are plenty of bees - and now that the supers have been taken off, there's less space in the hive for them. So it makes sense to add a second brood box, with 11 empty frames, which will give the bees some more space and also give them some productive work to do: building new comb!
So, a couple of weeks ago I put the box of empty brood frames onto Miriam's hive. Last week, when I inspected, the bees had already drawn most of the comb. I found Miriam on one of the old brood frames, picked her up (by her wings - very carefully!) and moved her onto the new frames. There is a gadget called a "queen excluder" that sits between the old and new brood boxes - it's basically a wire mesh, and the spaces in the wires are just large enough to allow worker bees through, but too small for Miriam to squeeze between them. This means she can't lay any more eggs in the old brood frames, so hopefully she should now be happily laying in the new comb.
I'm going to check on Monday to see how she is getting on...