Migrating from commercial to 14×12 frames – part two (a change of plan)

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Posted by Andy Sivell | Posted in Artificial swarms, Beekeeping advice, Beekeeping books | Posted on 12-06-2012

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I love to browse beekeeping books. I confess I don’t own that many: two, to be precise. But I like to browse, or ‘to look at the pictures’ (as my sister once rudely described my reading habits). My problem with actually buying books is that I have no time to read them, and that I suspect the bees never get around to it either.

Anyone coming here from Migrating honey bees from commercial frames to 14x12s – part one with the not unreasonable expectation that ‘part two’ might – you know – progress from there, ought to brace themselves now. I had a plan, an elaborate twelve-point plan, which I’d even begun to render into a series of beautiful colour illustrations. Unfortunately, (or possibly fortunately) the bees had a different agenda.

homemade and shop-bought National beehive supers

Shop-bought super (below) versus homemade super (above). After taking this picture I went out and bought three supers.

At my next inspection I found drone brood and over a dozen unsealed queen cells, the unmistakeable signs that the colony was preparing to swarm. The presence of queen cells was obviously a dead give-away, but I was quite proud of the fact that having noticed more than the average volume of drone brood on the outer frames I was already on the look-out for queen cells before I found them. And what was this in the super above? Honey. Honest to goodness honey. Two years of trying and approximately £400 in equipment and granulated sugar was about to pay off and result in my first jar of golden nectar: retail price £4.

I called Deryck Johnson for advice and, bless him, he came over the very next day. I don’t think I could have kept him away. I thought we’d split the colony, but what we ended up doing was an artificial swarm. I say “we”. Deryck did all the work. I stumbled around knocking into things. I could finally see what he’d meant about my apiary being small. With two of us it was like working in a broom cupboard. I proudly showed him the new apiary site I’d prepared around the corner. I’d put up fencing and everything. He said it needed to be twice as big. Ah.

We (he) knocked down all but two queen cells and then moved them and the entire colony (minus the old live queen), in the commercial brood box, to the new site in the back garden. A single frame of brood was kept back and rehoused, together with the old queen, in my 14×12 brood box on the original site. The rest of the brood chamber was then filled with frames of undrawn 14×12 foundation. A second super was placed on top and I was left with strict instructions to leave both colonies alone for a fortnight, but to keep an eye on the supers. So far so good.

Thirteen days later the second colony swarmed.

Next week (possibly): Extracting honey for the first time, and I get a third colony.

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Comments (2)

Yours may be the most expensive honey you’ll ever try, but I bet it’ll also be the best 🙂

I clearly have a problem, as I now have over twenty beekeeping/bee related books, with plans to buy more!

very funny. they never told us at the introductory talks that it would be such an emotional roller-coaster. Glad to hear you have some honey. Like you, I calculate our cummulative cost of producing honey to be akin to gold in terms of £/oz. When people say, ‘Manuka is the most expensive honey’, they clearly have never kepy bees on a small scale themselves. Hope to meet up soon. Mark

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