We were lucky with the weather for our second open day – we managed to pick a sunny gap between some rather heavy showers to open up the hive and check out our bees.
They continue to do well, with a good healthy brood nest, and a good amount of stores up in the honey supers. Whether there is enough for us to take a crop of honey off will depend on their ability to take advantage of the main flow of nectar over the next month or so.
Below, Kathy checks a play cup for an egg.
Last week we put a partly drawn shallow frame into the brood box to replace a broken frame we had removed, and they have been busy girls over the past week.
This is what it looked like last week….
And this is what they have done in a week….
This is a method of varroa control. What they have done (by the book!) is drawn out the foundation within the wooden frame into worker cells (because that was how the foundation is imprinted), and then built ‘wild’ or ‘free’ comb below the frame, and you can see from the picture that this has larger cells than the worker comb. This is drone comb, and the queen will lay unfertilised eggs, which will turn into drones (males), which are larger than their female counterparts. Varroa mites will preferentially inhabit drone cells because of their longer pupation period (which gives the varroa longer to breed). Gilla had not started laying in these cells yet, but she should very soon, and by next week there should be young larvae in the cells.
A week later, the cells will be capped and we can then remove all of the drone comb, complete with larvae and, more critically, lots of varroa. We’ll freeze it to kill everything. The drones are good for nothing (they only exist to mate with a queen, they don’t do any work or collect nectar), so apart from the energy that has been used to build the comb and make the bees, we have lost very little… except for a lot of varroa… at least that’s the plan.
As well as being a method of controlling the numbers of varroa, it is also a way of assessing the level of infestation by uncapping the brood and counting the numbers of varroa – which is a bit messy, but it will help us to assess whether we need to take further control measures.