Monday, July 11th, 2011

As part of the very small swarm that I attempted, and failed, to catch today I noticed green pollen.  Later on I noticed the same green pollen being brought into a hive and curiosity got the better of me.  I suspect that it is the pollen of meadowsweet.  Meadowsweet is flowering in beautiful creamy patches along the hedgerows at the moment.

meadowsweet by damien farrell

The hedge was in a desperate need of a trim today.  In truth, it has been in desperation for a month or so now but I have had little inclination to do anything about it until today.  I decided to get up nice and early before the lovely Sharon and the little man even dreamt about waking up.  The sleepy Sharon was a little shocked when she woke up and looked out our bedroom window to see me in the garden sitting listening to the morning birds and eating my eggs and soldiers.  An hour later I was driving the, still sleepy and breakfast-less, little man to nursery.  The day was just beginning and there was a lot to be done.

I threw myself into the hedge cutting, not literally.  For the first half hour I found myself trying to get daisy chained extension leads to work.  These leads would not pass any health and safety inspection but needs must.

Eventually I worked my way along the hedges and left the hedge along the apiary untill last.  It was at this point that one of the day’s little issues began.  I sat and watched a growing crowd of bees leave a hive and become more and more excited.  This was a hive in which I had left two queen cells instead of leaving one queen cell.  It was also the hive from which we have heard tooting every night for the last three nights.  It seems that the queen that emerged first wanted to swarm and leave the hive.  The lovely Sharon and I leaned ourselves against our hoe and brush shafts respectively and relaxed by watching the amazing site that is a swarm of bees.  The straight blurry lines of the scouts navigating and guiding the swarm could be clearly seen. It eventually settled on a low down beech branch.  Due to the complete lack of numbers in the hive the eventual swarm paled in comparison to the swarm that left a couple of weeks ago.

With a lot more calm and decorum that I displayed with the swarm a couple of weeks ago, I began to collect my bits and pieces from the garage and suited up to ‘catch’ the swarm.  I shook most off them into a nucleus box and let the rest walk into the box.

We left them to sort themselves out while we dealt with the day’s other issue; jam.  The fruit is ripening and must be used before it over-ripens or gets eaten by the birds.  We started a few days ago with blackcurrant jam and then went on to gooseberry jam.  Today we picked the redcurrants with the intention of making jelly.  But we have run out of jars.

We hunted high and low for jars.  We also hunted for the jelly strainer that we eventually found hidden between books in the study, no one knows why.  Eventually we found a collection of very small jam jars that I had been hoping to use for honey.  I had saved these little jars because our honey harvest will probably be low if we get any at all, especially if they keep swarming instead of filling their hives with nectar.  The strange thing is that a lot of people are probably expecting samples of our honey and so the tiny jars might have helped us with this dilemma of etiquette.  But, again, needs must.

The swarm box was now very quiet, too quiet.  I had noticed that the hive they swarmed from had shown plenty of activity just after I ‘caught’ the swarm.  Opening up the swarm box had confirmed my suspicions; the box was empty.  Moments after I tried to catch them they were called back to their hive by the fanning of pheromones.

The consensus is that this happens if the queen has died or has been damaged during the swarm.  The lovely Sharon insists that if we can get this queen laying then she must be called Tooter after her strange vocalisations that we have listened to for the last three nights.  So, maybe Tooter is dead or has been damaged and has been abandoned by the bees?  Maybe, but this evening I leant my ear to the hive and there was the unmistakable sound of a tooting queen……