Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Introducing... Queen Dorothy!

Every beehive has a single queen bee, and the queen of the brown nucleus is called Dorothy.

She is named after Dorothy Mary Crowfoot Hodgkin, who was a Nobel Prize winning Chemist.  Dorothy was born in Egypt in 1910, and moved to England at the outbreak of World War I.  She was one of only two girls who were allowed to study chemistry at her grammar school in Beccles.

When she was 18 years old, Dorothy was admitted to study Chemistry at Oxford.  She graduated in 1932 with a first-class honours degree.  Dorothy then went on to study for her PhD, during which she began working on X-ray crystallography to study the structure of protein and sterol molecules.

After completing her PhD in 1937, Dorothy began to solve the structures of other biological molecules, including penicillin and vitamin B12 - for which she was awarded the Nobel Prize.

Dorothy was appointed the Royal Society's Wolfson Research Professor in 1960.  She continued her research into molecular structure, including working on insulin, which she had begun researching in 1934.  In 1969 she finally resolved the structure of the insulin molecule, opening the way to medical research and treatment for diabetes.  Dorothy continued to work with laboratories that were undertaking research into insulin, and gave lectures worldwide in the importance of insulin in the causes and treatment of diabetes.

Find out more:

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Yesterday in the Apiary

After yesterday’s mammoth article, we’re almost back up-to-date on everything that’s happened in the apiary in May.  However, there was a bit of work to do yesterday in each of the hives and nucs.  This, in order of inspection, is what happened:

The Brown Nuc

The queen in the brown nuc started laying two weeks ago, and everything looked good yesterday - plenty of capped and uncapped brood.  I found the queen easily, and since there wasn’t anything else to do, and the bees were nice and calm, I got out my queen-cage and marking pen, and marked her with a dot of red paint (the colour for queens that emerged in 2018).

I have also officially named her - the name will be revealed in my next article!

The Blue Nuc

This was started two weeks ago, using frames and bees from hive #1 (but no queen).  The bees had clearly been busy making new queens, as I found two open queen cells from which queens had emerged.  Normally, when two queens emerge in a small colony, they will fight to the death - the winner gets to rule the hive.

I had a good look, but couldn’t see a queen anywhere.  This could mean that they killed each other in their duel.  Or, it might be that the survivor was out on a mating flight.  Or, I need to get my eyes tested!  I will have another look next week, and hopefully will spot a new queen.

Hive #1

This hive is doing well, and there is a lot of brood.  Hardly any nectar has been added to the super that I put on last week, but that’s probably because all of the nectar that’s being collected is being used to feed the new brood.

Since there was nothing else to do, I finally(!) got round to marking queen Laura.  Because she emerged in 2017, she was marked with a yellow dot of paint.  I had my queen-cage ready, but actually didn’t need it - when I had the marking-pen in my hand, Laura was in the middle of laying an egg, which left her perfectly still with her thorax exposed.  With a steady hand, I aimed the tip of the pen, and gently tapped the middle of her thorax - and was spot on target!

Hive #2

Because of the prior Sacbrood infection in hive #2, I routinely inspect this hive last.  The bees were a little moody, but otherwise fine.

I saw an emerged queen cell, and set about looking for the queen.  After going through the brood box twice, I was all ready to give up and put the last frame back into the hive.  Then, I heard a very reassuring sound - the unmistakable tone of a queen bee piping!  After another quick scan of both sides of the frame, I spotted the new queen marching determinedly across the bottom of the comb.  Excellent news - hive #2 is almost back up and running.  I’ll leave her alone for a couple of weeks to “entertain gentlemen callers”, and then check to see if she’s laying.

So that’s us all up-to-date.  Apologies for the lack of photos recently - now that I am back into the swing of things, I’ll try to get a couple of pictures into next week’s update.

Monday, 28 May 2018

May - What's Been Happening With the Beechen Bees?

I've missed a few blog posts, so I thought I'd better give you all a quick catch-up on what's been happening at the Beechen Bees apiary.  Here's a run-down, by date, of what's been going on:

Saturday 5th May

Back on 18th April, I'd split the colony in the double-height nucleus, and the bees in the blue nucleus went (on the 19th April) to go and live in the ZEST hive on Sydney Buildings.  This had left 5 frames of bees, eggs and stores in the brown nucleus.  So the first task of the day was to see if the bees had produced a new queen.  Indeed they had!  So, once the new queen has mated, the brown nuc will be back up and running.

Hive #1 (Laura's hive) was all looking fine.  The only thing they are in need of is a comb change, which I delayed until the following week.

Hive #2 (Maria's hive) was not at all fine.  The queen was still only laying drones.  And I was worried that the comb might now be infected, because of the outbreak of Sacbrood that they suffered from at the end of last season.  I decided that they would need emergency measures, but that required finding queen Maria.  Which I didn't.  The hive would need to be sorted out the following week.

Monday 7th May

The early Bank Holiday was a glorious day in Bath.  I didn't need to open any hives, but there was still beekeeping to be done.  One of the tasks I'd been planning to do was refurbish the blue nucleus.  When I built it, I had used the wrong sized mesh for the floor, which had holes that were actually just large enough for a bee to crawl through.  This was not at all helpful!  I had bodged up an interim solution using a piece of plastic board which was inserted onto runners underneath the nuc, and then a second piece to cover the gap at the back.  This was OK - and served as a Varroa board as well - but it would regularly get clogged up with discarded wax cappings and other detritus.  A proper fix was needed.

I'd already bought the correct wire mesh around a year ago, and fetched it from the loft.  So, with a spare day and some spring sunshine, I got out my trusty Black & Decker Workmate bench and some tools, and got to work.  Much prising, nailing, screwing and sealing later, and the blue nuc was as good as new (more or less) and ready for some bees.

Sunday 13th May

The first task was to check the brown nuc, and see if the queen had started laying.  Yes - she had!  This is great news as the colony is now fully functional.  I just need to pick a name for the queen...

I checked hive #1 and everything was good - queen laying and all healthy.  Since I needed to do a comb change, I decided to do a 3-way move of frames between hive #1, hive #2 and the blue nucleus.  I proceeded as follows:

  • Leaving hive #1 open, I also opened #2 and went through the frames until I found queen Maria.  Then, I picked her up by her wings, took her to a flat surface (the top of the brown nuc, as it happens) and squashed her with the blunt end of my hive tool.  I can tell you, I don't enjoy killing queen bees.  Normally, it's the last thing you want to do as a beekeeper.  But Maria wasn't doing her job (of laying eggs) and there's no excuse for slacking off in a beehive.  So that was it - Maria was dead.
  • Next, I shook the bees off 8 of the frames in hive #2, leaving the bees on 3 frames.  These were pushed over to one end of the brood box.  The 8 frames that were now without bees were taken down to my burner.
  • I next went through hive #1 and found the frame with queen Laura.  Don't worry - Laura is fine!  I temporarily move the frame - and Laura - into a spare brood box that I'd placed on a stand between the two hives.
  • Then, I took two frames of stores (honey) and three frames of brood - with bees - and moved them into the blue nucleus.  This was then closed up, with the entrance block closed.
  • I then went through hive #1 shaking all the bees off each frame, and then moved the frame into hive #2 - at the opposite end from the three old (and possibly infected) frames.  After I moved each frame, I put a new frame with fresh wax foundation into hive #1.
  • At this point, hive #1 had bees and 5 new frames.  I added another 5 new frames, and then moved the (old) frame with Maria back into hive #1, into the middle of the frames.  Hive #1 now had 10 new frames and one old frame, and a laying queen.  I closed hive #1.
  • Hive #2 now had 5 old but healthy frames from hive #1, a gap, and then 3 old - possibly infected - frames.  I shook the bees off the three remaining (possibly infected) frames and took them to the burner.  I then put 5 fresh frames in, either side of the 5 old frames.
  • At this point, hive #2 contained 5 old but healthy frames from #1, 5 new frames, and no queen.  I closed hive #2.
  • I burned all 11 old frames from hive #2.
  • Last job, I opened the entrance block in the blue nucleus to let the foragers come and go.
A busy day's beekeeping, but hopefully my bees' health problems are now solved.

Sunday 20th May

Was world bee day!  And there was beekeeping to do:

Firstly, I went through hive #1, and found Laura.  She was on one of the new frames, which was handy for me as I wanted to take the last old frame out.  I took the old frame out of hive #1, shook the bees off it, and moved it into hive #2.  This frame had capped brood on it, which would help to bolster the number of bees in hive #2.

I put a new frame with clean wax foundation into hive #1 and closed up.  Since the colony were busy and collecting a lot of nectar, I also put a super (box of 10 honey frames) onto hive #1.

I then checked hive #2, and found a good-sized queen cell.  Excellent news - the bees have started to make a new queen.

I didn't check either of the nucleus colonies as there was no need - the brown nuc has a laying queen, and the blue nuc will hopefully be building queen cells.

Sunday 28th May

Today's inspection will have its own, separate post, which I'll publish tomorrow.

Monday, 21 May 2018

Update on the ZEST Hive

Apologies for not having posted recently - most of my regular readers will understand the reasons why.

I have a couple of updates coming about my own hives, but first I have some pictures (kindly taken by Ian) of the first couple of sessions with the ZEST hive:

Hiving the Bees

Suited up and ready!

Moving the frames out of the nucleus...

... and into the ZEST hive.

Second Inspection

Taking the roof off.

Blocks to remove.

Ready to look at the frames.

Comb building has started!

This old frame is removed, and burned.

Next time, I'll have an update about what the Beechen Bees are up to.