Copper Bee Apiary

A garden apiary in Whittlesford, Cambridge, UK - honey bees and their beekeeper Hilary van der Hoff.

A Hat Trick

We went on holiday for a few days, and while we were away a new family unexpectedly moved in to our empty house. I found them all settled in when we got home. Fortunately I'm talking about the bait hive. A third swarm has arrived!

I am honoured that my garden is held in such high regard by the local honey bee population. We were already the chosen home of two May swarms (here and here), and now this June swarm. Maybe even more swarms would have come, but I'd only recently put new bait hives up after the first two became inhabited.

The home that the new swarm chose was this nucleus box up on a platform in an apple tree:

They apparently preferred that elevated little nuc box to the big brood box on the sunny hive stand next to Queen Peony's colony. 

Bees in the bait hive

I feel a special connection to these bees who, like me, have chosen to live here. Even though my number of colonies has already exceeded the number I had planned to have here this summer, it would be a hard thing indeed to part with any of them or to remove their queens in order to unite colonies for winter. My intention had been to merge pairs of colonies going into winter, and so have half the number of colonies overwintering (each one a big, strong colony), then let their number at least double again in spring as they naturally reproduce. But that uniting presupposes that I am willing to remove (kill) about half the queens. An easy decision if some colonies are unproductive and tetchy. But what if they are all gentle, happy, healthy bees? I feel my plan wavering.

Writings, images and sound recordings are by the beekeeper unless otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.

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