Monday, 11 June 2012

A Tale of Two Hives

Monday 11th June 2012
A real shocker of a day.
Before the bees, back to the egg thief. Last night I decided to attempt to move Broody White Chick Number Two to a new nest box, to allow the others a chance to lay without their eggs being stolen. I lifted her in the dark to find SEVEN eggs under her plus a smashed one. It fell into place what has been happening.
She has been appropriating eggs to satisfy her maternal instincts. But this necessitates rolling them from one nest box to the other, over a couple of wooden rims. Clearly several have got smashed along the way.
Anyway, I placed her into the new house, next to where the other White Chick is sitting and moved the eggs there too. Eventually I got her to realise what had happened and she nestled down onto her clutch of eggs,  clucking contentedly.
At 4:30 this morning she was still sat and I opened up all the chicken houses as I always do.
At 8:30 this morning (I was a little late feeding as the weather was wretched all day) she was to be found sitting back on the original nest. It was too late for the clutch of eggs which she had abandoned. So that plan had not gone as well as anticipated! I have decided not to let her sit for now, so today I removed the eggs as the other chickens laid them. I still had to retrieve them from under her, but at least I got three, our best count for a while. Hopefully, if I keep doing this, she will soon give up sitting and carry on with normal chicken life.

As mentioned, the weather this last two days has been horrendous, with several areas of Britain experiencing flooding. So today was spent clearing and reorganising the stable block, in readiness for the return of Gerald from his boar duties.

Yesterday was spent in the greenhouse potting up and sorting out the seed trays.
There was a break in the weather and we took the opportunity to open up the hives. Our original queen is still present with a slowly growing colony. The other hive has plenty of bees, but we were unable to locate the freshly hatched queen which we introduced last week. Nor could we find any eggs, so we may well have a queenless hive here. We'll give it another week and then make a decision what to do.

For now, I did manage to get some pictures which I'll use to illustrate a few basic beekeeping terms. Apologies for poor quality, but it's not easy using an SLR when wearing a bee veil and wearing thick leather gloves.

In this slightly blurry shot you can make out our queen. She is marked with a white blob. This shows that she is a 2011 queen, as the colour for marking changes each year. You can maybe see that she is a slightly different shape to the female bees around her, longer and slightly larger. Without the white mark, and surrounded by a denser mass of bees, she would not be easy to find.

The picture on the right shows a frame. These hold thin sheets of foundation, a wax sheet marked out with slightly raised tessellated hexagons. The bees build this foundation up to make the familiar hexagonal cells. This is called drawing the comb.

This frame is a shallow one which we used instead of a deeper one in the brood box. (This is the bottom section of the hive, where the queen lives and lays eggs, and where the larvae are raised).

You can see that the bees have added their own comb to the bottom of the frame (on the left in this picture) to fill the space.
The open cells in the picture on the right contain larvae - those white, maggot-like things curled up in the bottom. You can just make out different sizes, from small ones on the left to larger ones towards the middle of the photo. Further right than that and the cells have been capped by the bees. This is known as capped brood. Inside, the larvae are developing into bees.

In this wider picture of the same brood frame, you can just make out the capped brood in the centre. To the left of that are the growing larvae. Around the edges are stores of pollen and honey.

There is an ideal pattern to all of this. This frame does not look bad to my inexperienced eye.

So there you have it. Bee-keeping lesson number one.


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