The weather is still exceptionally warm and dry and now the raspberries are in flower and the bees are busy. We added two boxes but now we are out of frames. Peter tried to get some more from the supplier but they have sold out. So we will have to wait until next week when the company can source some more from up north. Apparently beekeepers are going frantic trying to keep up with their swarms.
P. went to check the hives today following the split he made last week.
As we had been warned, the old hive (in its new location) had continued to produce queen cups. So these have to be removed. Presumably they will soon calm down and stop making them.
Otherwise the hive is fine, and so is the new hive that we placed in the gap where the old hive was.
Two of the hives contained queen cups (cone-shaped nests) with larvae which suggested they could swarm any day soon.
So P decided to take pre-emptive action by creating a "false swarm". This involves splitting a hive into two colonies. A brand new hive is installed in the same place as the old hive that contained the queen cups. The frames with queen cups, and some frames with larvae (drones) and food are put into the new hive. The old hive with its queen and other bees is moved to a position 5 metres behind the other hives.
The flying bees from the old hive move into the new hive because it is now in the same position as their old hive. One of the queen cups will produce a queen who will destroy all the other queen cups thereby becoming the queen in that hive. She then leaves the hive, mates and returns to the hive to lay her eggs (lots of).
In the old hive which is now in a different position, new bees are hatching to continue that colony.
We now have 7 hives in the same clearing in the forest above the cabin.
When P. moved the trays into the new hive, he removed some of the "wild honey". These are combs that the bees have built themselves in a gap below the Langstroth frames. It's a sticky process but at last we were able to get a taste of some of it. It is almost completely translucent but the taste is incredibly strong.
We also removed some of the drone larvae: big, fat, white grubs - which we gave to the neighbour's hens. These larvae attract varroa destructor which is why they are removed. And the hive doesn't need a surplus of drones.
There seem to be as many opinions about swarming as there are beekeepers in Finland. The jury is still out on whether it is better to split the hive before it swarms. And some say the new hive has to be AT LEAST 3kms away from the old hive, others suggest that 1km is enough.
Our action plan this weekend was: Do Nothing. But that was largely due to the torrential rain which gave us a good excuse not to make a decision.
But we are leaning towards splitting the hive and setting up a colony up at the house. To be continued...
We painted some more frames today - racing to get them stacked up. Peter noticed that one of the hives is producing cones so is preparing to swarm. Unfortunately the lesson on "What To Do When A Colony Decides To Swarm" is not until next week...
We are using Farrar frames but we also have some Langstroth frames.
We buy the hives in parts, then glue them together and paint them ourselves. They are easier to transport like that and cheaper to buy.
In the picture from top to bottom:
lid; food tray (holds a sugar solution for winter feeding); farrar box; langstroth box; base (which is aerated with a central piece of mesh).
Honey paw frames.
In May and the beginning of June the main source of food for Finnish bees is willow (salix). Soon the dandelions will cover the front field, they are a very good source of pollen. Then the berries start blooming, for example, bilberry flowers and later on raspberry flowers too. Clover is also an important source of food for them.
Wikipedia : Melliferous flower
Wikipedia : Pollen source
Our bees are Italian Ligurian bees Apis mellifera ligustica which were introduced to Finland in 1866. They are docile and unlikley to swarm but not so well suited to northern latitudes.
There is much debate about which bees are best suited to Finland's climate. The Finnish Black Bee and the Buckfast Bee are both used for honey production in Finland. In this article the US Ambassador to Finland (Mr Bruce J. Oreck) talks about these different bee species.
(Finnish bees go /bzz/ just like English bees. Not that I thought they wouldn't. But I wonder how Finns pronounce the sound a bee makes since neither /b/ or /z/ exist in the Finnish alphabet... psss...)