Copper Bee Apiary

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

EFB Picture Diary - Part V

As you can imagine, the times in the apiary when I have the most to write about are exactly the times when I have the least time to write about them. And so it is that I only managed a single post in June. But here, at last, is a happy installment of EFB Picture Diary.

25 June 2019

The Inspector calls

The Inspector calls

The Bee Inspector arrived in the morning, just as the rain was lifting.

“How many colonies do you have?” he asked.

“Eight”, I replied.

I’d checked my hives just a couple of days before. I knew I had eight colonies of bees. But with bees, you never really know anything. When we looked, there were nine.

The ninth colony was living in the roof space of Queen Peony’s hive, above the crownboard, sealed off from the main colony below. When the Bee Inspector lifted off the roof, there was a mass of bees on top of the crownboard, and another mass of bees hanging from the roof.

Squatters in the attic

Squatters in the attic

They couldn’t have been there long - I had lifted that very roof off that very hive less than a week before, and even the most unobservant beekeeper couldn’t have missed the unexpected presence of several thousand bees in a normally bee-less space. They had begun to build comb, which you can see the Inspector removing from the upturned roof in the picture above. The Inspector said that the comb-building meant they probably had a queen with them, since otherwise they wouldn’t bother.

Now, the only way in to the roof space for a bee is through the cone escape, which is supposed to be an exit-only point to allow the occasional trapped bee to escape. And it’s really very narrow. It would be surprising if a queen could fit through, but queens do get slimmed down in preparation for swarming, so maybe that’s how she did it. Anyway, evidently the swarm had considered this cramped garret with its tiny doorway to be a better prospect than my lovingly furnished bait hive a few metres away. Hey ho.

After the usual flurried cycle of on-the-spot decision-making and immediate mind-changing with which I respond to each curve ball the bees throw at me, I opted to leave the bees where they were (they were presumably oriented to that place) and to install a brood box and bigger entrance underneath their chosen roof, providing this new doorway by way of the Snelgrove board which fortuitously doubled as the crownboard of that hive. This was our new setup:

The Bee Inspector makes his records (on the official iPad)

Bees in the roof

The previous weekend, a swarm had issued from Queen Peony’s hive and settled at the top of a pear tree. They stayed the night then left the next day. I think it was Queen Peony herself in the swarm, so at least that solves one mystery: the supercedure plan (if there really was one) was called off. But it was then apparently replaced several weeks later by a swarming plan, which I evidently failed to notice.

My best guess is that the bees in the roof were Queen Peony’s swarm returning (or almost returning) to their original hive. Maybe they did come home but were refused entry so crept in upstairs. Maybe they lost their queen and didn’t know what to do. Whatever happened, sadly they didn’t stay. The next day, the roof space and new brood box were empty.

But back to the inspection. We got the all clear. No EFB was found in any of the colonies. All brood healthy!

The good paperwork

The good paperwork

The Inspector withdrew the official standstill notice, which since last August had prohibited movement of bee-related things from the apiary.

I know my Dad will now be asking when he can have his next jar of honey.


Update: The roof bees came back!

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