The calm after the storm


Synopsis : What are you able to do with the spare nucs and queens left after profitable swarm management? After a ‘month of mayhem’, calm descends on the apiary and there are queens to mark, colonies to unite and – fortunately – a bit extra time for all the pieces.


The primary half of the beekeeping season – sure, for me no less than, greater than half of it has gone already – began very slowly. The lengthy, chilly early Spring appeared to delay colonies from making swarm preparations, although they actually constructed up strongly by foraging exhausting when situations have been appropriate and there was loads of pollen within the containers.

And, as a result of colonies have been robust and working out of house, when issues lastly warmed up all the pieces went a bit mad.

Luckily, my apiary go to in the beginning of this week means that the ‘month of mayhem’ is over and it ought to now all be plain crusing till the top of the season.

Now not do I really feel as if I’m enjoying ‘catch up’ on a regular basis, juggling a dozen metaphorical plates to get a superb honey crop and never lose swarms, desperately trying to find spare tools, or cursing my lack of frames, or dummy boards or – most just lately – these little plastic ‘sweet’ caps for JzBz queen introduction cages .

Calm after the storm

And, appropriately, these apiary visits have been periodically interrupted by some spectacular cloudbursts … however, as I drove house within the calm afterwards it was clear each I and the bees had weathered the storm and issues have been trying good for the summer time honey and the rest of the season.

’Spare’ nucs and swarm management

My favoured swarm management technique includes making ready a nucleus colony with the previous queen and letting the unique hive requeen itself.

If issues go improper then I’ve all the time bought the previous queen safely tucked away and he or she might be pressed again into service with out an excessive amount of interruption to the colony. The ‘previous’ queen usually isn’t all that previous and she’s going to usually carry out OK for a lot of extra months, although they’re generally outdated late within the season and also you’ll discover an unmarked queen within the field the next Spring.

But when issues go proper you’re left with a ‘spare’ nuc.


A late June nuc ‘spare’ after swarm management

Earlier than deciding what to do with the nuc have a fast examine on the queen it comprises.

It’s generally not the one you place there.

I see this a few instances every season. The nuc most likely makes an attempt to swarm with a clipped queen, the queen is misplaced, the swarm returns and the nuc requeens. Alternatively, the nucleus colony would possibly merely supersede the unique (ageing) queen.

I’m undecided I might reliably decide which of those occurs with out, a) seeing the nuc swarm, b) observing the accompanying brood break, or c) discovering a laying queen and a mature queen cell (or two queens) throughout an inspection.

And that is additional confounded by the remark produced from Eoghan Mac Giolla Coda on ’imperfect supersedure’ in response to the submit a fortnight in the past. This includes the lack of the older queen earlier than emergence of the brand new one, and consequently does create a brood break.

However regardless of the mechanism, the end result is a nuc headed by a present yr’s queen 🙂 .

What are the choices?

There’s virtually a limitless vary of belongings you might do with a spare nuc, however the majority of mine normally find yourself being:

  1. United again to the unique colony – or one other colony – to spice up the workforce for the summer time nectar circulation. The previous queen must be eliminated earlier than uniting otherwise you threat dropping the (presumably youthful) queen heading the manufacturing colony. I’ll return to uniting later on this submit.
  2. Requeened by including a cell reared from a grafted larva.
  3. Used as a comb and brood ‘manufacturing unit’. Nucs quickly outgrow their house until frames are frequently eliminated. These brood-containing frames are used to complement different colonies (after shaking off the adhering bees), merged with the adhering bees to supply cell raisers or – supplemented with a mature queen cell or virgin queen from the incubator – used to supply extra nucs. So long as the nuc just isn’t weakened an excessive amount of you may hold eradicating full frames and offering new frames which they may draw and fill. The nuc will want feeding if there’s a dearth of nectar. This can be a very helpful technique however requires good remark and the power to guage how the colony is growing week by week.
  4. Retained for overwintering to make up for any winter losses or on the market the next Spring. For the previous it actually helps to have a requeened nuc and for the latter it’s important. Younger queens lay late into the autumn, producing an abundance of winter bees and these little colonies overwinter effectively.
  5. Bought on or donated to a newbie. In each circumstances the nuc ought to have a present yr’s queen.
  6. Constructed up right into a full colony for honey manufacturing (once more normally after requeening).

I usually do 3+2+4 … in that order.

Supersedure once more (briefly)

A couple of weeks in the past I mentioned including a foil-wrapped (or maybe extra accurately foil-protected because the complete cell just isn’t wrapped, however the tip – by way of which the queen will emerge – is left uncovered) queen cell to a queenright colony with the intention of inducing supersedure (‘enforced’ supersedure?).

I did this with a small variety of colonies – each full hives and nucs – all of which have been efficiently requeened and now comprise a brand new unmarked and unclipped laying queen 🙂 .

‘Enforced’ supersedure

I couldn’t discover the unique queen in these colonies however didn’t search them exhaustively. It was 15 days for the reason that cells had been added … ample time for the brand new queen to emerge, mature, mate (we’ve had glorious queen mating situations) and begin laying.

With out realizing when the unique queen disappeared it’s tough to know whether or not there was an interruption to egg laying and, as I said within the submit on supersedure, I don’t know the destiny of the unique queen.

Did the colony cease supporting her as most likely occurs in ‘regular’ supersedure or did the brand new queen merely slaughter her?

One thing to attempt to decide subsequent season …

Marking queens

With requeened hives following swarm management, and outdated queens in a few of the nucs, I spent a part of the afternoon marking and clipping queens. That is a kind of actions that, by the point I’ve achieved 8 or 10, simply goes like clockwork.

No drama, no disaster.

Every thing simply works – discover her, drop her into the marking cage, put the body down safely, stroll over to my ‘marking station’ within the shade, clip her, mark her, go away her whereas the paint dries (undergo the remainder of the field), shake her gently to the underside of the cage and lay it onto the highest bars of the body … and he or she’ll stroll down right into a seam of bees with no fuss.

Nonetheless, regardless of most likely marking tons of over time, the ‘priceless’ queens akin to these in nucs destined on the market , or the very first of the afternoon, usually contain a number of jitters.

Discovering the queen is normally fairly easy until the colony is boiling over with employees. In nucs it’s a doddle.

If the queen has solely just lately began laying she’ll virtually actually be on one of many central frames with eggs. Until after all you’ve ’kippered’ the colony through the use of an excessive amount of smoke, wherein case she might be virtually wherever.

Selecting up the queen can be normally comparatively simple. Nonetheless, that is very a lot not one thing that ”If at first you don’t succeed, strive, strive once more”.

Each successive failed try you make ends in the queen getting extra agitated. She begins to run about. She’ll flap her wings frantically and attempt to burrow into the corners of the body.

If that occurs go away it till subsequent week.

Many palms make mild work … however I’ve solely bought two

I initially used “crown of thorne’s” marking cages however feared impaling the queen or close by employees on the spikes, so now use “flip and mark” cages with a foam-topped plunger.

Properly used ‘flip and mark’ cage

Holding the body with the queen, selecting her up, placing the body down and putting the queen into the cage is less complicated with greater than two palms.

Ensure you have an thought the place you’ll place the body. You’ll solely have one hand to do that because the queen is in your different hand. I normally stability the body on one lug and the underside bar within the open hive, or between the rails of the hive stand.

Frames might be positioned like this one-handed

You are able to do this safely – by which I imply with out crushing bees, dropping the body or jarring the hive – when holding the body by only one lug. You can not simply decrease the body into the brood field utilizing one hand.

It’s commonplace for a flying employee or two to analyze the queen you’re holding. Typically they even behave aggressively in direction of her (regardless of presumably being from the identical hive).

I transfer away from the hive to mark and clip the queen. This avoids being buzzed by inquisitive employees which isn’t splendid in case you’re making an attempt to clip her wing with out amputating a leg. I normally go away the Posca pen and scissors in a shady nook of the apiary.

A shady nook of the apiary

Not deep shade, I want to have the ability to see what I’m doing, however out of direct daylight so I can safely go away the caged queen there for a couple of minutes whereas I type out the hive.

When returning the queen let her stroll out of the marking cage quietly.

A limping queen

In a single hive I discovered a laying queen and eggs laid in what regarded like day-old queen cells. The queen had solely laid a body or so of eggs, however there have been no younger larvae so it was clear she had not been laying for greater than 3 days. This queen had taken a very long time to get mated and the colony was completely broodless.

The eggs have been positioned accurately on the backside of the cells however there have been loads of missed cells and her general laying fee was most likely lower than I’d have anticipated.

And a more in-depth take a look at the queen confirmed why … her left rear leg was paralysed and being dragged alongside behind her.

This can be a poor video (once more too few palms!) and the body had been out of the hive for a very long time so the queen was a bit agitated. In an earlier try and video her she’d resolutely failed to maneuver however she had the anticipated retinue of employees round her.

It regarded to me as if the colony ‘knew’ there was one thing improper with the queen and the early queen cells have been a sign they have been going to supersede her.

Relatively than wait one other 3+ weeks for a substitute I made a decision to take away the limping queen and easily unite the colony with a kind of ‘spare’ queenright nucs I had within the apiary.

Uniting colonies

The day was certainly one of sunny intervals interspersed with very heavy showers and there was a gusty wind blowing.

I normally unite colonies by laying a few overlapping sheets of newspaper over the brood field after which, after making a small central(ish) gap with the tip of my hive instrument, gently place the second brood field on high.

Some recommend it’s OK to do that with an ageing queen in a single field and a younger queen within the different, trusting that youth will prevail within the eventual confrontation.

I don’t.

Why go away it to probability?

I take away the queen I don’t need, stack the containers separated by newspaper and shut the hive up. That is virtually all the time profitable.

On a windy day it may be tough conserving the sheets of newspaper in place lengthy sufficient so as to add the second brood field. Once more it’s a kind of conditions while you want extra palms.

Push pins and newspaper for uniting

The plain reply is to make use of pins to carry the newspaper in place. The sort proven above (I believe they’re termed ‘push pins’ when bought) are simple to deal with with gloved palms and are far more helpful than customary drawing pins for my part. You should purchase a magnetic instrument to push drawing pins in place however it’s yet another factor to lose within the depths of the bee bag.

Uniting nucs

If I’m uniting a nuc with a full brood field I normally switch the nuc frames right into a second brood field and use a ‘fats dummy’ to occupy the vacant house.

Uniting a nuc with a full colony

Uniting a nuc with a full colony …

This works effectively and saves having to both fill the higher field with spare frames or make investments (or extra seemingly bodge collectively) a devoted uniting board that accommodates the completely different flooring areas of the 2 containers however that sits unused within the shed for 51 weeks of the yr.

Avoiding brood frames full of nectar

However the summer time nectar circulation is ramping up.

Blackberry is flowering and the rosebay willow herb has already began. If I’m fortunate (I gained’t be, it’s been too dry) the lime will begin in 7-10 days.

RBWH, mid-August 2015

All of which implies that I’d find yourself with a double brood field, considerably underpopulated with bees, throughout a powerful nectar circulation. No matter the supers additional up the stack, this normally implies that a few of the brood frames within the higher brood field shall be used for nectar storage.

Sure, because the colony expands they may transfer it up into the supers … however they may not. And in the event that they don’t I both should extract from brood frames or, as soon as capped, retailer them for overwintering nucs.

I’d desire the nectar/honey went straight into the supers 🙂 .

So, again to that limping queen … I eliminated her 🙁 . There was no brood within the colony (aside from a body or two of eggs) however the nuc was full of bees and brood.

I merely eliminated 5 empty frames from the queenless brood field, shaking any bees again right into a central hole. I gave the highest of the brood field and the underside of the nuc a fast spray with an affordable and cheerful air freshener and positioned the nuc frames into the center of the brood field. Whereas transferring the frames I ensured that the queen was current.

The air ‘freshener’ masks the completely different hive scents and, by the point it dissipates, the colonies have mingled.

By way of defending the added queen you could possibly presumably do that with out the air freshener, however I’d additionally desire the bees on the periphery didn’t battle.

Launched virgin queens

Final week I briefly mentioned how I had let some queens emerge in an incubator after which launched them to a colony a number of days later.

The queens emerged on a Friday into their Nicot cages and have been added to nucs in fondant-plugged JzBz queen introduction cages the next Monday.

JzBz queen cage and sweet cap

One week later I situated the queens of their nucs.

All have been ‘plump and swaggering’, giving each impression that they have been now mated, although a perfunctory search advised that none have been but laying. There’s normally a delay of 48-72 hours between mating and the onset of egg laying.

The distinction in look between a thin, skittish virgin and a mated queen – even these but to begin laying – may be very placing.

I’ve each expectation these nucs may have laying queens in them once I subsequent prise off the lids.

Queen mating in Scotland can get a bit hit or miss later within the season. I shall be rearing extra queens however can be shocked if now we have such good climate within the subsequent 4-6 weeks for mating. It’s due to this fact seemingly that no less than a few of these nucs will find yourself being overwintered. I’ll want to make sure that they don’t get too robust, so – as outlined above – will periodically take away frames of brood (used to spice up honey manufacturing colonies) to maintain them in examine.

Taking inventory

~10-20% of my colonies have wanted no swarm management. These have been all used to supply bees and brood for making ready a queenless cell raiser. They have been very robust colonies however a mix of acute remark and skilful beekeeping easy dumb luck meant all of them seem to have stayed within the field … and generated a substantial surplus of honey.

I ‘misplaced’ one swarm however recovered it from underneath the shed a number of days later. I did lose a number of clipped queens when colonies tried to swarm and have been thwarted, however I’m not conscious I misplaced the employees from any of my hives (although there’s nonetheless time for a second spherical of swarming in mid/late July if the climate is nice).

Nonetheless, with the rest of hives both containing mated and laying queens, mated queens or – within the case of the nucs made up with cells from the Hopkins technique of queen rearing – just lately emerged queens, all the pieces now feels kind of underneath management.

I’ve piled supers onto all the robust hives and can now concentrate on making ready a few of my west coast colonies for the heather. The bell is already flowering and the ling shall be alongside in ~5 weeks, or maybe much less as all the pieces feels a bit forward of itself this yr. An affordable heather crop is one thing I’ve singularly failed with beforehand, so there’s heaps to study (i.e. heaps to get improper).

However on these infinite summer time evenings it’s additionally good to take a while away from the bees and paddle throughout the loch to hitch the dolphins chasing the mackerel on the incoming tide or – much less interesting – see a few of the largest Lion’s mane jellyfish I’ve ever encountered 🙁 .



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