Straightening out a poorly managed beehive.

National 1 is one of my new colonies. The previous owner had, rather unwisely, left two full supers over the top of the brood box without a queen excluder.  My first initial inspection a couple of weeks ago confirmed the fear I’d had when I got this hive – Queenie (Q2) had decided to move upstairs and start laying brood in the supers.   As the brood was confined exclusively to the supers, this seemed fairly straightforward to fix and they were moved below the brood box so Queenie would move upstairs, out of the supers and into the brood box where she should have been in the first place.  This could have gone badly – the bottom of the hive will have been colder than the top, after all. The brood could have been chilled or the queen might not have moved up anyway. Luckily todays inspection showed she had moved up and started laying (and after that pleasing revelation I neglected to check further). The plan for this hive today (always have a plan – things go more smoothly!) was fourfold.

  • Ensure the brood was in the brood box,
  • remove the under supers,
  • replace the brood box to 14 x 12 and in doing so,
  • refresh some of the frames with new 14 x 12 foundation.

With a new 14 x 12 box (actually a regular national box with a 14 x 12 expansion eke) at the ready, I started the check.  Taking frames from the old box and replacing in the new box. Frames not being used for brood were interspersed with 14 x 12 frame, and the original brood frames now have space below for the bees to build brood comb, but SHOULD still stay straight as they have foundation frames either side.   The bigger challenge is the space below the brood nest, which is currently 4 frames wide. If they start cross combing that I may have a problem. Fingers crossed on this one – I’ll let you know how it works out.

Plan departure #1 – On the first frame with brood, the queen scuttled under the frame and over to the other side, As it was the first time I’d seen the queen (and a lovely specimen she appears to be – big, glossy, and very quick!) I decided to mark her. Using a crown of thorns she was trapped and marked pretty quickly, and left trapped while I finished the inspection, giving the paint a chance to dry a little. As I don’t know her exact age she was marked green (as Q3,4 and 5 will be) as a 2014 queen (as per THIS post), but I don’t really know her correct age so will just have to see how she carries on.

It was about this point that the bees started getting a little feisty. My first hive (Flow1) has always been pretty passive, so I’m hoping that this isn’t a portent of things to come. Maybe they didn’t like the paint, or maybe just didn’t like their queen being trapped or something about how I was working them. One things for sure, I definitely need to work on keeping my smoker lit (or maybe just lighting it properly – will have to post about this sometime).

Plan departure #2 – I should have checked first – this was a mistake. Even though the queen had moved up to the brood box, she hadn’t stopped laying in the supers below. Rightly or wrongly, my hastily considered modification to the plan as follows.

  • New brood box (with brood and queen) on the hive floor
  • QE over this
  • Supers with brood over this.

My hope is that even though I split the brood nest, there are now enough bees to nurse them through. If not, some of the brood in this part may be lost, but hopefully nothing worse.

At this point, they need feeding. There’s some new foundation in the brood box and brood that needs feeding. The weather is getting better but there are no guarantees it’ll stay good, and similar with forage. A cold snap could knock back some of the current blossoming. Two options – sugar syrup or their own old stores.  I went with their own old stores, in the original brood box on top, with just a small gap through a hole in the crown board (mainly covered with a piece of cardboard) to their supers. Hopefully they’ll rob this out and store it and if they need more feed in a few days I’ll put some sugar syrup over the top.

Possible problem – DWV (Deformed Wing Virus) visible on a few bees in National 1 – need to read up on this and take action.

Flow 1 went smoothly. Plan add super for brood and a half set up. Accomplished simply after a quick inspection to confirm queen, brood and stores are adequate – they are.

In other news, before all this I did a tandem skydive with my son today for his 16th birthday.  Very, very cool – big smiles all round.

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