Today was my first father’s day, and it was not a weekend without events.  The weekend started on Saturday morning with father and son bonding by both of us being very sick.  With the copious vomiting between the two of us the lovely Sharon was kept very busy looking after her two wee boys.  This morning we both felt much better and were both a lot happier.  The little man is not allowed to return to nursery tomorrow as he needs 48 hours of non vomiting to ensure he does not contaminate the other children.  It is a shame, and an injustice, that the same rule does not apply to teachers.

The little man bought me my first father’s day present of…..a beekeeping jacket.  This means I don’t have to take the time to put on the whole suit if I am just feeding them, doing a quick inspection or even just sitting watching the bees go about their buzziness at the hive entrance.  It ended up being very fitting and poetic that the jacket was worn, for the first time, by my own father as we did an inspection together today.  Inspections every seven days are essential at the moment to try and avoid swarming.  A swarm occurs when the bees decide it is time to split the hive in two.  The bees build a few queen cells and when they are ready to hatch, the old queen then leaves with about half or a third of the bees.  A swarm is when the bees look their most frightening but I am led to believe that they are at their safest and least likely to sting.  Two weeks ago I spotted the start of a queen cell and so I broke it down.  Last week I found a few beginnings of queen cells and so I broke them down again.  Today we opened up the hive and found several closed queen cells.  Bad news.

the calm after the swarmstorm

It is said that if you have found closed queen cells then the swarm has already left the hive, unless the weather has been bad.  Looking into the hive I think that most of the bees are still there but it is hard to tell for sure.  I had to assume that the queen was still there and I needed to do an artificial swarm.  This involves tricking the queen into thinking she has swarmed.  The easy way to do this involves finding the queen.  The hard way is when you can’t find the queen.  I can hardly ever find the queen. After looking through the hive twice I could still not find the her majesty and we had to do it the hard way.

Hundreds of bees in the air is always an intimidating thing to be in the middle of, but this happens every so often, especially if you shake the bees off a frame.  Doing an artificial swarm the hard way involved us shaking the bees into a box by shaking ALL THE FRAMES.  There was a lot of angry buzzing and gnashing of teeth (although they don’t actually have teeth).  I even got stung, but it was my own fault for leaning over and distressing a crawling bee in the folds of my suit.  After all the bees were in the new box we put the old box on top of it leaving a double story hive.  The idea is that most of the bees will move up and leave the old queen downstairs so that I can separate her tomorrow and have two hives.  All sorts of things could have gone wrong and with the process.  I could have accidentally killed the queen.  She might have already left anyway.  Or the new queen might not mate due to various reasons.  After saying and suspecting all these things I am also beginning to learn that bees seem to sort themselves out to some extent.  They are survivors holding on against all sorts of diseases, the fumbling of an amateur beekeeper (a newbee in beek lingo) and the grim Irish weather.

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