New bees at Knockhatch

I visited Knockhatch about 6 weeks ago, and the swarm we caught in the bait box from the Oak Tree colony were building up gradually in their hive, and bringing in lots of pollen. We went to check them again, and being hot, mid-morning, and during the school summer holidays, we thought it prudent to just have a quick look at the inspection board for sign of varroa mites, and make sure all was well from the outside activity. There is so much information to be gathered from simply watching the bees at the entrance, plus a quick check under the lid and floor, making it unnecessary to go in and break the nest apart. These bees are really calm, but given the high number of people enjoying the facilities at the Adventure Park, we didn’t want to initiate any disturbance.

We saw a couple of varroa mites on the inspection floor, and the bees are still bringing in lots of pollen!

We walked past the bait box in the large oak in the picnic area, about a hundred metres from the bees’ oak tree:

Paul waved me over: there were bees flying in and out – completely oblivious to the noise and bustle below them.

There were no bees when I called in before, so we have no idea how long they have been here, but it will be a cast swarm, maybe tertiary, so won’t have had a chance to build up much. The first swarm, with the current queen is called a prime, then if the colony swarms with the newly hatched queen, that is called a cast swarm, or secondary swarm. If the bees then swarm with the third queen, that is another cast, but a tertiary swarm. The later the bees swarm, the more work they have to do to build up for the winter, and the less drones there are available for the virgin queen to mate with so they quite often fail. However, if the weather is good (which it has been) and there are plenty of drones (which there might have been) then there is no reason why they can’t hold tight to their meagre resources through the winter, and build up with their nice young queen in the spring. Many people unite late swarms with a stronger, more established colony and/or feed them prodigiously but we will see how far along they are when we fetch them out of the tree next week. They can’t stay in the bait box as it is not well insulated, but they can overwinter in a more robust nuc box, so we will see what’s what.

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