Queen Bee-atrix Abdicates

On the very same day that her namesake in the Netherlands was relinquishing the throne, our Queen Bee-atrix has decided to abandon her principal residence in favour of one of her offspring, and has moved on, along with a considerable number of attendants.

strange formation near the bees

strange formation near the bees

It was all a bit of an unexpected drama.  I had beetled over to the hens to collect the day’s egg production (three eggs), when I noticed an odd shape on a tree branch adjacent to the hive. Upon closer inspection it was a seething, buzzing mass of bees – a Swarm!

don't panic!

don’t panic!

Still being a novice bee-keeper, I had little idea of how to interpret this development – so headed back to the house and the reference books. Andy had just arrived home from work in Colomiers, and we decided that the best course of action was to call our Venerable Beede (VB). He told us that we had to react immediately, otherwise the swarm could be off to pastures new in a matter of hours. So, off sets Andy back to Colomiers to pick up VB and returns an hour later, along with him plus a small nursery hive – I’m not sure what the correct term for this is in English, but in French its ‘ruchette’ , a word I like (and will therefore continue to use).

I had already got the smoker lit – I have recently hit upon the idea of using a blow torch to get it going, much less time-consuming. VB slipped on his wellies, whilst Andy and I covered up from head to toe in full bee-keeping regalia.

preparing the ruchette beneath the swarm

preparing the ruchette beneath the swarm

VB is not too impressed with the volume of this swarm, already having tended to some recently at least 10 times larger – in fact he wonders if its not a secondary swarm. There is much to ponder on the whys and the wherefores of this particular bee behaviour – but for the moment we must concentrate on keeping these bees chez nous.

cool as a cucumber

cool as a cucumber

The swarm cluster is actually calm – the bees dont have any brood or honey to defend. So a quick snip with the secateurs, and the cluster is laid on the waiting frames of the ruchette.

bee swarm gently laid on top of frames

bee swarm gently laid on top of frames

the smoker is used to encourage the bees to enter into the hive

the smoker is used to encourage the bees to enter into the hive

lets hope they like their new home

lets hope they like their new home

We shall keep these bees in the ruchette for 3 or 4 weeks, providing nourishment. And in the meantime have to get a second hive prepared, the same as the first one. This will be placed in exactly the same location as the ruchette – and when we feel that the bees and the frames are settled they will be transferred to their new permanent (hopefully) residence.

We shall also be investing in one or two ruchettes – so that, should there be another episode like this, we can handle it ourselves, having been shown the way by the Master!

you can't escape from us that easily

you can’t escape from us that easily

Once the bees had dropped into the box, a cover was added and then the lid – VB ensuring that every last, single bee had found its way into the ruchette – there were still some bees arriving late wondering what had happened to the swarm.

The ruchette was carefully placed on a new palette – I still had work to do making a syrup solution, and Andy was off for the third time that day on a Colomiers round-trip to take VB back home (after we had toasted the evening’s work with a small glass of vin cuit).

(to bee continued)

9 thoughts on “Queen Bee-atrix Abdicates

  1. Never a dull moment in the bee world !!
    The news in the UK yesterday was all about bee populations and pesticides – an EU directive I think. Then some expert BEE professor on Chris Evans talking about Bees too – he had just returned from USA where there are also considering looking into banning certain pesticides.

    You are therefore at the forefront of keeping Bees safe and productive – look forward to another tasting!

    • It was very exciting. We only ever intended to have the one hive – just so that we were self-sufficient in honey, plus there’s still alot to learn (especially about swarm management evidently), so there was never any intention to expand.
      Cost wise, we have already invested in the clothing, tools and extraction kit – so adding a new hive won’t amount to too much, we have the space, and the bees are free – so we are happy to be adding this second hive.

  2. Queen Beeatrix looks like a very clever lady (or, rather, she has clever attendants) landing in such a nice little spot so you could capture her retinue and take good care of them.

    That swarm is very similar in size to the swarm from my hive this year. I have to say it didn’t grow in leaps and bound but we only fed it honey frames, not sugar water for the first 2 months (probably a mistake). We’ve requeened our swarm and hope it becomes an honest-to-goodness colony soon. The timing of your swarm looks good, fingers crossed a good flow comes on and those bees draw comb like mad.

    I’ll be watching to see the progress of Beeatrix Sr and Jr in the coming weeks.

    • It was a very convenient location (luckily), in terms of being in easy reach and removable all in one go. Our ‘Master’ has sent me images of swarms that he has attended recently – much bigger, wrapped in and around trees, high off the ground – a nightmare.
      They say that swarms taken in May and June are well worth having – we shall see!

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