How to unite bee hives. Twice!

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Following my disasters with the bees I took the Bee Buddy down last week to sort the girls out. They acted like little angels so that showed me up. The Bee Buddy suggested we revisited today and afterwards asked me if I could just help with a couple of his apiaries.

Having been so ill he has reduced his bees significantly this year. He is not however meant to be lifting anything. Hence needing my help. However being a typical stubborn man he has not been following the doctors advice and admitted that a few evenings ago he had united 2 hives and needed to check it had worked and remove the spare equipment.

The apiary in question is on an old railway line. The tracks are long gone and the land is planted with trees and wild flowers. It’s where we make the charcoal, willow withies and any other outdoor things. It is a haven for native plants, birds and insects. Only last week we ate our lunch there watching a muntjac buck wandering around. Anyway I digress!

It’s a long walk down to the hives and the BB still finds that tiring. There were 5 hives there and it’s been too much work for us this year with his illness, my other commitments and the weather restrictions. One of the hives had swarmed and not re-queened very successfully. It was this hive he had united with another.

To unite a hive you find the queen in the old one and kill her. You then put newspaper on top of the queen excluder in the new hive with a few slashes in it, stand the old hive, minus it’s floor, on top of the new, put on the lid and leave them to it. The idea is that by the time the bees in the top have chewed through the paper the new queens pheromones have infiltrated them and they all unite without fighting.
BB had not been able to find a queen in the old hive and after much searching had deemed the hive queenless.

We have done this many many times. On checking it all looked to have gone well until The BB found brood ( young babies!) In the top box. Now no queen means no brood, so clearly there had been a queen in the old hive. We immediately started looking for her, there’s a queen excluder between the 2 hives for just this sort of mistake!

We searched and searched and then he wandered of to the other stand he had moved the hive from. And low….

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A swarm of bees sitting on the stand leg below where the hive had been. The queen on guessing his gruesome plan had just wandered out of the hive and waited for her girls to join her. It’s been overcast and miserable weather since and I guess they were just waiting it out.

After a quick discussion we decided the only thing to do was try to do the same thing all over again. Reunite x2. Now at this point I hadn’t taken my phone so had no camera, it seemed I would miss this great blogging opportunity. Then The BB realised he needed more newspaper and that was in his car with my phone. It’s a long walk but off I went.

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Newspaper on hive.

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Old hives brood box on top of paper. Let the fun begin.

Pick up the bees by hand. Walk them across. Drop onto the paper and search for the queen.

It took us a while. Some probably kept flying back but it was the only way.

We did this for a while and then I gave up videoing. Seconds later The Bee Buddy found the queen in the box. He lifted her onto his hand for me to photograph/video upon which she instantly took flight. His reflexes are quicker than mine and he instantly clapped his hands together and killed her. Sounds harsh, I did a girly squeal, but it was for the best. She couldn’t live alone and if she had stayed around would have starved slowly to death or caused the others to swarm again. There weren’t enough of them to create a new hive,  and they probably wouldn’t survive the winter.  Added to that BB is reducing his hives, he had 40+ a couple of years ago and is now down to 12. It’s quality not quantity he needs!

 

 

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