The weather is good and the bees are busy – so Neil ‘The Bee Man’ is here to split one of his hives and get us started on one of our own. Catching a swarm is one way to start a new colony (see Busy Bees – Mar 1) and ‘splitting a hive’ is apparently another.
So Ed and Neil transplant the queen with a load of her followers into our new hive…while I keep my distance. The rest of the bees are left behind. These will now create a new queen by fattening up a female larva with loads of royal jelly. I’m learning the ABC of bee-keeping through Ed – it’s totally captivating and slowly drawing me in. Although my bee-suit’s still on order…
Up in the walled garden we also have a swarm-catching plan. It’s less whimsical than a scented ‘bee-catcher’ in the yew tree, as described by Mr C – apparently the yew tree is too close to the house. Instead it’s a box with some old honeycomb inside perched on top of the wall – but the fact that ‘scout’ bees might locate it and then guide a swarm there to start a new colony is still a pretty enchanting idea.
So we have our first hive in the paddock and a hive-in-waiting in the walled garden. If all goes to plan we should have our first honey by the end of the summer.