17th June

17 June 2017

We have had a week of lovely weather. If there is a Queen in the hive she should have had time to have her virgin flight and come back and start laying. However most of our minds this week have been with our neighbours down the road.

The column of smoke from the terrible Grenfell Tower fire which started on the night of the 14th June was visible from my roof terrace all day on the 15th.  It is due East of this flat, perhaps a mile or so away. Apart from being glued to the television, worrying about the people and wondering what one could do to help, I decided not to open the hive. Who knows what pollutants were in the air.

This isn’t the place to express my extreme anger. I was born and raised in that Borough. How can the council react so slowly to such need, whether they caused it or not?

Maybe it is the place. It is now the 1st July. The council leader has resigned and the borough has just realised that it is unreasonable to still charge rent to those whose flats they have burnt down and those many neighbours who don’t have hot water as their boiler was in the basement of Grenfell Tower. These may seem minor considerations, but when you are among Mrs May’s JAMs (Just about managing) financial things like this  are crucial. If the council actually thought or cared about its tenants a rent stop should have been immediate. It would have been such an easy thing to do, admin wise.

I understand very well the anger of the tenants, their feeling that they don’t matter. The initial reaction of the borough council  should have been, ‘We are so sorry. We don’t know what happened, but we will find out. We remain your landlord, you are all our responsibility, so what can we do today to help sort things out? There was no warmth or caring in their response.

The whole of London wanted to help. Instead of organising this good will effort the borough officials dithered. We gather there is a Pan London Disaster Plan, but the borough where it occurs has to ask for help. For a crucial two days Kensington didn’t. As a result all of us individuals did what we could. People turned up with clothes, bedding, nappies, food and even pushchairs. Many of these donations are now stored in local churches etc and may well end up in jumble sales for the fund. This enormous emotional response to other peoples agony could have been so much more efficiently channelled and therefore so much more effective had officialdom stepped in and organised it.

One bit of useful practical help I happen to know about was offered by my granddaughter’s school. The school in the shadow of the Tower  had to close. Many children were in the middle of their crucial state exams. My granddaughter’s school, perhaps a mile and a half away, took the children and teachers in, gave them space and let them get on with their schooling. My granddaughter says, ‘They keep getting lost and have to be shown where to go.’

I will stop now, but the anger remains. The citizens volunteers of that borough  put on the Notting Hill Carnival every year, a major organisational feat. Their paid borough administrators  can’t even even get their act together to sort out the roofs and utilities they are legally committed to provide.

Back to bees!

Today however when Hebe gets here I think we will open up and assess the situation in the hive.

pm

We opened the hive and did a careful inspection of all the frames. The upper super of six frames had drawn up honey stores on five frames and nectar on the sixth. No brood of any sort seen. The lower box had capped drone cells on the first three frames, but far fewer than on 5th June, so lots have hatched.

The fourth frame was the test frame, the donation from Pip and W. on 24th May. There were AGAIN   two queen cups, charged, with larvae clearly visible, but they weren’t the same cups as last time. The biggest was smaller than the one seen on 5th. There was no sign of eggs or worker capped cells.

Conclusion: A) I have some laying workers who wouldn’t tolerate the queen cells that were grown from the test frame and took them down.

  1. B) That queen cell hatched and flew off with some bees and the new cells are a replacement.

Not too much idea of what is going on. I will ask the guru, W. However there is a lot of honey, unfortunately on brood sized frames. I wonder if these fit in a centrifuge. I must ask Pip.

1st July

Hebe and I inspected the hive in detail. The previous embryo queen cells had dried out. There was no evidence of a queen but lots of larvae and all capped brood cells were drones. There is a lot of honey though. Hebe, with the red gloves, held a couple of the frames while I photographed

Hebe and a honey filled frame
Hebe and a honey filled frame

them on the ipad with the pen thing. That seems to work.

honey and drone cells

honey and drone cells

the test frame - no queen cells now

the test frame – no queen cells now

 

attempt at close up to see drones emerging

attempt at close up to see drones emerging

Even closer.We watched that top bee emerge.

Even closer.We watched that top bee as it emerged, waving it’s little legs about. It is of course a drone

Thoughts:

I clearly have laying workers, which are a bad thing. I am also, for family reasons, moving back to Devon. What I think I shall do is let these bees live out their span as they are still making honey and then move my empty hives to Devon and start again, maybe with the native British Black Bee (Apis mellifera mellifera or AMM)

3rd June – 6th June

Saturday June 3rd

This was Bee Open Day and Pip and I minded the Tombola stall as a thankyou for all the help we’ve been given. We made £100

One of the attractions is a display frame of bees, with a queen. I went and had a long hard look at this, because it isn’t often you get that chance to observe without the palaver of a bee suit etc. She was clearly another of the Blondie Queens descended from Pip’s original.

5.6.2017

Back to my bees!

It was a sunny warm day so I put the bee suit on and had a quick look at my bottom brood box. Frames 1-3 were covered in capped drone cells, scattered randomly across them.

Frame 4 – the gift from W and the frame Hebe and I put in on the 25th May, had two embryo queen cells on it, bigger than acorn cups but not capped. In one I could clearly see a larva and some royal jelly. This cell did have a broken bit on the side of it. I am presuming this is just the building process and not an annoyed laying worker having a go at the new potential queen.

I didn’t look further, lowered that frame gently back, reassembled the hive and retreated to do some sums.

The eggs the workers are trying to make queens out of must have been less than 3days old on 25th May, because if they are older than that the books say they can’t be converted. On the 5th June therefore they are about 12 days old from being laid, over in W’s nuke on the allotment. In normal circumstances a queen cell is capped at eight days and hatches at 16.  Given this is a queen cell created from an egg then presumably it needs extra time. If she isn’t capped yet there are at least eight days to go which might make hatching day around the 14/15 June. She will then be a virgin queen and have to make a flight to get mated and (hopefully) come back and start laying. I think this means I don’t look in the hive for a good two weeks after 14 June. I might have one quick look before then, say on the 12th to see if we have good queen cells ready to hatch.

The potential complication are the laying workers. I have read up about them. In a queenless hive there are no queen pheromones to suppress the workers own laying hormones. Gradually the workers own hormones come into play and they begin to lay, but of course these are unfertilized eggs and so will become drones. It is said that it is very difficult to get laying workers to behave again and they often kill an introduced queen. It is to be hoped that having decided to grow their own they will accept her.

This all calls to mind Margaret Atwoods ‘ The Handmaiden’s Tale’ which is showing on television at the moment.

I have asked advice about all those capped drone cells. My instinct would be to move some, at least, of the frames with them on and replace with a frame of stores and new foundation. We’ll see what is said.

6th June

Having had a lovely week of sun, it has been raining hard and blowing a hooly for 24 hours. I do hope the bees have just hunkered down and get on with rearing their queen. They have lots of stores in there.

 

2nd June 2017

I had a call yesterday from Pip. who started beekeeping at the same time as me. I had offered to help her out if she ever had a two handed job. She called yesterday to ask if I’d go and help reunite two of her weak colonies. These are the result of captured swarms and are both rather small. The problem will be spotting the unmarked queen in one of them and removing her – as Pip  says ‘if she exists at all and hasn’t just absconded.’

That queen, if she exists was destined for the freezer (euthanasia) but if she exists then maybe I’ll take her and see if I can manage to introduce her into my hive. That will mean I need to go equipped with a box, some fondant and I thought a useful jamjar and a light.

News later on how it all went!

Later

I had a fascinating time helping Pip.

All our searching failed to find a queen in the small nuke so we set about persuading the remaining worker bees to join the main hive. This was done by opening the big hive, laying newspaper over the queen excluder, putting an eke on top,  making a few slits in the newspaper and then tipping the bees from the nuke in, putting another sheet of newspaper over them and a super on top. The logic behind this is that by the time the incomer bees have eaten through the newspaper they won’t seem foreigners to the indigenous and integrate. She will check later in the week to see how things are going.

We then went on to check her other hive which has one (yellow) marked queen and maybe another. These bees are known for their nice nature, ever since Pip got them. We checked and found the marked queen who has a very individual pattern on her abdomen. She doesn’t have bold stripes and is a sort of pale murky blonde. Further inspection and we found what we both think was the unmarked queen. She was just like her mother, with this characteristic patterning, quite different from all the bees around her. Though there aren’t supposed to be two queens in a hive, apparently sometimes it happens and they coexist. Pip and W’s decision is to leave well alone and see what happens.

 

26.5.2017 – 31.5.2017

26.5.17

Beeclub: Lots of interesting stuff. Learnt how to pick up a queen for marking. We were practising on drones! There is the odd yellow marked drone flying around out there. I hope it doesn’t have identity problems due to it’s cross dressing.

  1. says, given the history of my bees, if I go over to his hives tomorrow, he will give me a frame to put in my hive. Then either my bees will grow a new queen or the extra eggs will just ginger my bees up.

27.5.17

Hebe and I set off for W’s hives. It isn’t far but it is under the Heathrow flightpath right by the airport. This means momentarily, usually when you are wondering what the GPS is trying to tell you, a HUGE plane practically lands on your car as it heads for the runway. It is terrifying. And inevitably you miss your turning.

Anyway we got there, got Hebe into a bee jacket and went to the hives. After looking at various brood frames, W. chose one with eggs. We wrapped it in a damp towel and came home.

On dismantling the hive we found yesterdays larvae much bigger and as they are clumped together. W. says they are unlikely to be drones as they are usually just odd cells. We will have to see when they are capped. If by any chance they are worker brood, then I have a queen and she must have been newly made by my workers and just got back from her mating flight, perhaps delayed by the bad weather.

Time will tell! I will look at those larvae on Wednesday!

We both went back up to the roof a couple of hours after putting in the frame and was there a difference! The in and out bees who had been rather lethargic over the last week or so were moving much faster and with purpose. They were busy bees! I do wonder what is going on in that hive, all in the dark.

Hebe and I had bread and honey from the spare store frame! It was lovely.

29.5.17

The spare frame collapsed in the warm weather so, even though some of it was clearly nectar, I harvested it using the kitchen sieve and a wooden spoon. I have three jars of cloudy honey. It wouldn’t pass muster at a honey show as I bet it is more than 20% water which is the level for proper honey – and there are a few bits of pollen in it….

31.5.17

This morning I did what I said I’d do and told W. I wouldn’t. I had a quick look at the frame that I saw larvae on last Friday. The cells are now capped and, though it is no consolation, I was right, they are all drone cells. This means I have laying workers which is said to be very bad.

I do regard this year as a learning year and if I have to move back to Devon I shall go able to start again with some competence. There is a project down there, just outside Plymouth, to support the indigenous British Black bee and encourage people to keep them. I rather fancy that.

On the book front – Kevin, who published her, has given copies of my book ‘ Sian and the Winterwife’ to the theatre company he works for during the summer in Spain and they loved it. He has to write a production proposal – whatever that is.

I sent an email to Fay Weldon, who was my tutor at Brunel, the year I was there and for whom I wrote the first book. Bless her, she replied within the hour and said she’d love to have a copy of the second one (Rubic’s Return). She also said she’d buy the Aunt Bobby diary, (Menus, Munitions and Keeping the Peace)  because she is writing something about the canary girls, (the munitions workers who worked with picric acid and turned yellow)

 

1st – 15th May 2017

May 1st

All the bees seem to be behaving normally except that there are more in the super. According to my reading, this might be a sign of queenlessness as the nurses, having no brood to mind are building comb instead.

3rd May

I check the bees about twice a day. I water the vegetables in the containers on the roof, first thing, before the bees awake and might be bothered. I’m just not sure what is going on inside the hive. The bees seem normal BUT very few are bringing back pollen.

I found a site that says when queenless the bees in a hive rest and fly out with their wings in a V as opposed to having them neatly folded over their back. Certainly some of mine have the V wings, – but I hadn’t watched them in detail before queenlessness to know if there is a change.

The number of dead bees each day seems sad but anthropomorphizing will get you nowhere. I have just massacred a great many clothes moths who have set up a colony in an oriental rug that was my Mum’s. I don’t feel sad about them.

5th May

Bee club. I have decided to get more experience looking at bees rather than do the formal basic qualification this year so I joined the group round the hive I was with last year.

While we were looking at our hive we were all called over and told to look up. Above us in the tree was a swarm of bees. There was a certain amount of rivalry among the old hands about whose hive had swarmed but then everyone moved to collecting the swarm. There is a video of this when I learn how to include videos.

As it wasn’t possible to get all the bees out of the tree it seems to be anyone’s guess whether they collected the queen and thus the swarm will stay in the nuke, or they have missed her and the bees will all be back up the tree in a couple of hours. (12. 5 17: They stayed in the nuke and are now building up into a nice new hive.)

This is the second swarm video I have, that I can’t put up here!

10th May

My bees are behaving normally, though less pollen in and out. Daily death toll remains at about 20 plus. If bees have a  six week life span then those dying now will have hatched on the allotment by the airport, not here. I saw a couple of drones leave the hive and fly off. They are so much bigger than the worker bees, but I suppose, more or less identical to my new queen, if I have one.

I peek inside the top super through the sheet of perspex and can see some bees, just sitting there, not doing anything in particular. Warwick says they are just waiting for their new queen and then will leap into action.

I can also just see down, through to the brood boxes and there are an awful lot of frames glued together with wax comb. They are supposed to build up into the super, not sideways! I’ll have a lot of separating to do on Saturday. By then it will be 21 days since the swarm took off so hopefully there will be evidence in the form of eggs or larvae of a new queen.

13th May 2017

Last night was bee club. I am fairly sure I had got my eye in on eggs and larvae. I would be able to spot them prior to my hive inspection today.

It is now 21 days since the swarm and 20 days since we destroyed the last of the queen cells.

Well… On looking carefully and slowly in the hive I can find no evidence of brood in any stages. There are no capped cells at all. Everything there has hatched out.

There is lots of honey and nectar, but, I think fewer bees.

This means one of two things. Either there is no queen at all or there is a virgin queen who hasn’t made her flight yet. Emailed W for advice. Let’s see what he says.

I have put one  brood frame full of honey and nectar in a spare nuke just in case I need it as supplies for more bees.

W says wait and see. Give it another week. Will do as he says. Pip, another novice, at it slightly longer than me, has had two swarms in a week, but as her hive is at ground level she has collected them both.

May 15th

Interesting that the number of dead bees each day is now less than twenty and today less than ten. I suppose it means that the number fluctuate with the size of the bee population. They are still behaving normally, but my instinct is there is no queen.

If I ever get this set up as a proper blog – as I hope to, then I would have details of my books down the side of the bee diary. Today my latest  ‘Rubic’s Return’  went live on Kindle and is hopefully entered for their competition. It is another of my animal stories. “Watership Down meets Wind in the Willows – with foxes Is my elevator pitch.

Well, I’m proper blogging now! I haven’t got the book adverts/ covers  quite right yet. I don’t like slide shows. They go too fast for me but I am really happy with the cover of  ‘RUBIC’S RETURN.’ Astonishingly two days after Kevin (my publisher) loaded up the book in Barcelona (where he lives) the dozen I’d ordered arrived on my London doorstep from Amazon. It is more than astonishing it is extraordinary. My traditionally published book, my great Aunt’s World War One Diaries, ‘MENUS, MUNITIONS AND KEEPING THE PEACE’ took a whole year to make it into a book.

 

30th April 2017

Oh dear, Oh dear!

It is still Sunday. I was chatting to a new neighbour. ‘Do you keep bees?’ she said. ‘Shhh’ said I. ‘Well ,’ said she, ‘I saw thousands of bees in the sky a few days ago.  I’ll send you the video’

 

She did and it is definitely my bees. They have swarmed.  My poor colony is therefore probably queenless, I having destroyed so many queen cells.

The video is amazing. I am taking advice about how to include it here!

Sorry folks – it says I have to pay to put videos up. Will think about it. A pity, I have two good swarm videos.

I have asked advice. ‘Wait and see if you’ve got a queen,’ seems to be the main advice. About 18 days after hatching she should begin laying, but of course she has to go off on her mating flight and come back and lay eggs.

The final decision is to leave the hive for two weeks and then inspect and see if I have eggs. If so then we are up and running again. If not then I will need a new queen.

My job will be to look at lots of frames until I can easily spot eggs, which up to now I have found difficult. It is only a matter of looking lots and suddenly your brain clicks. I remember, years ago, looking at the southern sky from Africa for the first time and seeing no familiar stars. I had a book and went out every night trying to find the Southern Cross. For ages it was just stars and more stars, then one night, there was the Cross – it positively jumped out at me. I hope egg spotting will be the same.

I also have a clever pen thing which means I can take photos on the ipad without taking my gloves off, so maybe we’ll get better photos.

27th and 30th April

27 April

I am glad I fed those bees. It was below freezing on the roof this morning. The water dish was frozen. The feeder is full of bees eating the syrup, but still, I counted 40 plus dead bees this morning. I suppose these are the ones hatched in Warwick allotment and so are softy lowland bees. I hope the newly hatched ones are adapted to the rigors of roof living!

Supplies arrived from Maisemore yesterday. I now have a spare nuke complete, but await a brood box Must get them painted with the Sandex. It is supposed to protect the polystyrene from ultra violet light.

Queen bees:

For those who don’t know, Queen bees are traditionally marked by the beekeeper with a coloured spot of paint on their back so you can find them in the hive. The colour changes every year. My little Queen has a white spot as she was hatched last year 0n 13 August 2016. Her swarm was collected from a front garden in Hounslow.

This year, as 2017 ends with a 7 all queens will be yellow.  The last digit of the year determines the colour of the spot. It is an internationally recognised code.

1 and 6 =White Queens

2 and 7 =Yellow    ”

3 and 8 =Red         ”

4 and 9 = Green    ”

5 and 0 = Blue       ”

No way, if I hatch out a queen I would be able to find her among the other bees and mark her. I just don’t have the skills. So….. . I will see what is suggested to me on Friday!

30 April 2017

On Friday I went to bee club primed with questions. I interrogated lots of people and  I got lots of answers. W. looked at my dead bees and said,’They’re just old bees. Look, bald and shiny. Natural causes.’

I’m not sure I can see the difference yet between the dead bees and the flying bees . They all seem to have bald patches.

My main anxiety was what on earth to do on Saturday morning when I found a whole new load of Queen cells. We made a plan and I got the spare nuke ready.

Come Saturday I briefed Hebe about what we were going to do. We laid out the nuke and spare frames and got everything sorted to start the new colony and then we started the inspection.

About 40 dead bees lying around but NOT a Queen cell in sight on any frame, just one very small acorn cup. Hebe squashed that and we removed the feeder, put the Queen excluder back , the crownboard on top and left them to it, and feeling slightly foolish having got all that equipment ready.

We didn’t see the queen but there were a great many busy bees, so I’m sure she is there somewhere.

It occurs to me, now having read a bit, that it is too early (end of April) for the bees to have given up wanting to swarm and therefore make QCs but it has been a very cold week, below freezing on my roof on at least two days – so maybe cold has discouraged them. There is an interesting article in the BBKA magazine this month about a way to discourage QC formation involving an empty space below the brood box. I will think about that.

And very few dead bees this morning!

24 – 26th April 2017

24.4.17

Oh dear! 30 + dead bees on the doorstep this morning. I cleared them away and counted them. I am hoping they are just the result of mine and Hebe’s ruthless destruction of queen cells on Saturday. The flying bees all look healthy and shiny and active. I peeped into the top super and there is the beginning of comb construction – but at nothing like the speed of the first week when those so very overcrowded bees climbed up from the original nuke frames.

The next bit isn’t bees – but a blog means I’m allowed to have opinions!

A thought about learning bee keeping: It reminds me of Nurse training in the 1960s, before there were graduate nurses and when most learning was done by apprenticeship, on the wards, with a month every now and then ‘in school.’ It was a good system and produced good nurses. It is the same combination of observation, practice, and intellect you need for the bees.

While I’m on the subject: I don’t decry graduate nurses but the Enrolled nurses should never have been abolished. A path should exist today for Health Care Assistants to train and upgrade their skills while continuing working on a wage (as student nurses did in the 60s) and become something like Enrolled Nurses. Health Care Assistants on the wards don’t have the skills to assess – for example – the observations they make with their clever machines. I don’t suppose they can actually take and assess a pulse manually either.

Rant over!

26.4.2017

I panicked yesterday. There were another 30 dead bees outside the hive. I have saved these in a jar in the frig to take to beeclub on Friday. They look healthy to me – just dead.

I emailed Warwick, but while thinking about it decided the bees were hungry because of the cold and the fact that all the fruit blossom was finished so I filled the feeder and put it on the hive.

Email back from Warwick – saying they shouldn’t need feeding and 30 dead bees out of 30,000 is OK.

Anyway they won’t go hungry!

 

16 – 23 April 2017

This paragraph belongs at the end of the last blog. If you are a reader I apologise. I only learnt how to put this diary up as a blog yesterday, (June 30th) so I’m definitely not perfect yet.

My final thought was that it is impossible to take pictures with the ipad when you have rubber gloves on and it would be unwise to take them off, at least until a great deal more experienced with the bees. But we do need pictures.

Hebe says she reckons her Dad could be persuaded in return for a bottle of London Pride (our local beer). Hebe’s Mum says she’ll swap this ornamental bay tree I have which doesn’t like the wind on the roof for the loan of her husband for photography duties. I hope Dad will agree too! See the previous blog!

17.4 17

I  had a quick look in the super this morning, through the perspex lid. Last night was the first cold night, with rain, since the bees arrived. The super had one bee in it. I could clearly see the silver of the queen excluder at the  base of the super. I imagine all are huddled up in the brood boxes keeping warm.

21.4.17

On Warwick’s advice I have ordered an extra broodbox, lid, crown board and queen excluder from Maisemore. I tried to do it via the computer but ended up paying twice. I sent them a message from their site and they sorted it all out. Thankyou nice person called Caroline.

Tonight is bee club so I can ask for advice about what I’m going to find tomorrow – and tomorrow is the next inspection. What will we find!

23.4.17

I went to bee club on Friday and asked all my questions and got lots of answers and contrasting solutions to my problem of queen cells.

The first thing to note is that at this time of year bees are intent on making more bees, not honey, thus their behaviour in my hive is only natural.

Nobody was sure about my pale dead bees. I took photos and it is definitely not chalk brood.

Various solutions to my other problem were posed and several people were sad at my queen cell destruction, but all agreed that without further equipment I didn’t have much choice.

On Saturday Hebe and I inspected the hive, watched by her father with my ipad. He took lots of photos and I’m very sorry but one bee got tangled in his hair and stung him. I’m not sure the bottle of beer was sufficient consolation. I hope you all find the resulting pictures worth his sacrifice.

We found much the same state of affairs as last week in the two brood frames. There were four well developed queen cells, but almost no activity in the honey super I had added a few days before.

After thought we destroyed all the queen cells and cups we found and removed the queen excluder from between the upper brood chamber and the super. This increases the room for brood by six small frames and I hope will discourage some swarm activity now the bees have a bigger house.

I shall ring Maisemore and order a nuke for myself and make space on the roof in case I have to use it.

One suggestion came from Warwick. His idea was that if find more new queen cells, I move my White Queen and the bees around her into a new hive. These will be non flying bees, so the new hive will become theirs while the other bees in the old hive will hatch themselves a new queen.

Seems a bit mean and I rather like my White Queen. She has grown a lot and is very easy to find.

I need to do some serious reading to get my biology up to scratch.

For the record, my bees are quiet when flying around but only Buzz when they are annoyed and ready to attack. If I am pottering, watering the veg plot on the roof and somehow annoy a guard bee I hear the buzz and then know it is time to move – quickly.

 

 

13 and 15 April 2017

13.4.17

On visiting the hive at 8am this morning I found a pale dead bee put out for removal by me. Prof. Google produces many chat room suggestions. Seems not uncommon at this time of year in Colorado USA anyway!

15.4.17

The second hive inspection, which turned out to be much more dramatic than I expected.

Hebe’s mother dropped her off and we kitted up. The hood on her suit behaved beautifully, so my exasperating hour working it out was worth it.

Hebe holding a frame

Hebe holding a frame

Hebe’s role was to use the smoke when asked and crucially her eyes, to watch for the queen.

Well! We opened the upstairs brood box which eight days ago only had open nectar cells.

Today it was very different. It was very full of bees and every frame had capped brood on it. We saw the odd drone cell and a queen cup, just like an acorn cup. We squashed that and then saw something large  – say almost 2 inches long at the bottom of one frame.

At first I thought it was something to do with wax moth, then I realised it was probably a queen cell, jolly nearly ready to hatch. If it had hatched the new queen might well have swarmed, annoyed the neighbours and gone off with half my bees.

When the cell was squashed there was a small larva in it and lots of white stuff, like hand cream. I suppose this is Royal Jelly. I’m not sure I believed in it up to now!

Hebe and I on first hive inspection

Hebe and I on first hive inspection

Me, feeling slightly proud of myself at having made a diagnosis, Hebe and I progressed to opening the downstairs brood box.

This is much scruffier as these were the original frames that came from Warwick. Last week the bees had firmly glued their frames with new wax to the side of their box and each other, as if to protest about being moved to a new home. I had separated them with the hive tool.

This week they had done the same thing again. I separated them again and we collected any surplus wax in a jamjar.

I am told it takes eight pound of pollen to make a pound of wax. It seems such a waste of their energy, if I am just going to slice through the comb every week.

By the way, I am also told that collected old wax can be exchanged for new comb at bee meets.

Gradually we progressed through inspecting the six frames. By about the third Hebe was lifting them out in the approved manner herself. On the fourth frame we both saw the Queen, with her white paint spot on her back. She is so much bigger than when I last saw her two weeks ago. She has seriously grown up.

BUT we also found four more maturing queen cells, well beyond the cup stage. These we squashed.

Inspection of the varroa tray produced 4 insects, but there may have been more as it got shaken. There is a way of calculating the varroa load from observations but I’m not up to that yet. I do, though, now have three boards so will change it weekly and after checking wash the current week’s one

My final thought was that it is impossible to take pictures with the ipad when you have rubber gloves on and it would be unwise to take them off, at least until a great deal more experienced with the bees. But we do need pictures.

Hebe says she reckons her Dad could be persuaded in return for a bottle of London Pride (our local beer). Hebe’s Mum says she’ll swap this ornamental bay tree I have which doesn’t like the wind on the roof for the loan of her husband for photography duties. I hope Dad will agree too!

Hebe’s Dad took a lot of photos (two included above) from the other side of the fence. I’m afraid he got one bee in his hair and got stung. He was very goodnatured about it.