bees, honey and other sticky subjects

Saturday, April 30, 2005

Moaning workers

In Britain May is the traditional swarming month. And my bees usually swarm as soon as the first queen cell is sealed. So in a routine inspection this morning I was surprised to find several sealed queen cells -- and the queen still present. She was very small though. I was lucky to see her, but couldn't catch her to clip her wings.

This particular colony was the least advanced of all four of my colonies, but it was also the one that suffered most from the winter vandals, so perhaps she'd been injured or stressed.

I didn't have spare hive boxes to do a split there and then, so I returned later in the day hoping to see them in the act of swarming -- no such luck (I've only once caught my bees in the act).

I knew splitting them (separating the queen cells in one split from the queen in the other) would be difficult because it would be hard to find the queen again as she was so small. But the workers helped me -- they told me where the queen was. As I moved frames from one box to another, the bees who were separated from the queen started to moan -- well, more of a restless, dull roar actually. And by this process I was soon able to tell which frame she was on -- and eventually did see her to prove the point. Thank you girls!

I've noticed this restless dull roar before, but not within a minute or two of separation from their queen -- usually about 20 or 30 minutes. I'll pay more attention to this as an indicator in future.


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