BOOM! and Spring arrived

By | April 20, 2013

Today was quite a proud day for me, as a beginning beekeeper.
I need to create more room in the hive for expansion – my first super!

Through all of last year, I only managed the colony in a brood box holding the queen, new eggs and developing brood.

But with this fantastic warm (if not late) Spring weather, the colony will be increasing in population, and also need enough room to hold pollen and honey. In typical West London fashion – time to go into the roof! A box on top of the hive called a super, provides this room to store nectar and honey.

Assembled Super, with one foundation frame out, on top.

Assembled Super, with one foundation frame out, on top.

Looking at the weather forecast, I figured it would be time to expand this week.

One of the simple pleasures of beekeeping is building the hive from templated materials, and I put the super together earlier in the week.

The super is intended to hold only nectar and honey, so you need to have a kind of “cattle grid” or queen excluder between the lower brood box and the upper supers. This excluder keeps the queen in the lower brood box, allowing a simpler harvest of only honey filled comb (without any gooey larvae or pupae..). You can see this queen excluder in the lower right hand picture¬†as the wire grid, on top of the brood box .

A graceful replacement of her majesty?

Surprisingly, I found half a dozen “supersedure” cells. These cells hang on the side of the frame, are larger than regular cells, and hold potential new queens. The bees build up the new cells, and prompt the queen to lay eggs inside – potentially forming her own downfall.

This poorly take, out of focus photo shows two bowl shaped supersedure cells on the side of the frame. Someone is due to be usurped...!

This poorly taken, out of focus photo shows two bowl shaped supersedure cells on the side of the frame. Someone is due to be usurped…!

Although to my eye my queen is young, lays loads of eggs, and looks healthy, the bees seem to think there is something wrong with her and want to supersede or replace her. I cleaned all these supersedure cells away in the hope the bees are just over excited at the burst of Spring, but I’ll have to watch this situation closely.

My queen with yellow marking on her abdomen as she was born in 2012. I'd expect to get 2 years more out of her before she needed replacing, but I guess the bees know best..

My queen with yellow marking on her abdomen as she was born in 2012. I’d expect to get 2 years more out of her before she needed replacing, but I guess the bees know best..

I’d rather not have to manage a queen replacement in my first full year.. and my queen was only born last year. I’d exect to get a few more years out of her yet, as queens are usually fertile for 3 years.

Thankfully, it only looks like an attempted replacement or supersedure which is easier to manage, rather than an attempt to grow a new queen in a “swarm” cell.

A swarm cell looks slightly different and would indicate the hive wants to split in 2, for half of the colony to leave the hive and swarm. A trickier operation to manage, but one I’ll certainly need to get comfortable with in time.

Nevertheless with a potential supersedure going on, the queen is an critical part of the colony, and any changes need to be closely monitored, and managed.

The dot marks the spot

Queens get marked a particular colour so they are easier to spot during hive inspections. The colour also lets you know how old the queen is, with the following colour code;

White born in year ending 1 or 6 (2011, or 2016)
Yellow year ending 2 or 7
Red year ending 3 or 8
Green year ending 4 or 9
Blue year ending 5 or 0

 

 


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