The second apiary demo of the 2018 NBKA calendar was kindly hosted by Heddwyn Evans on the 9th of June at his apiary in Hickling, which gave the attendees a fantastic chance to see beekeeping near the Broads. Heddwyn gave us a short introduction to his history as a beekeeper, explaining that he had moved up from Hertfordshire a couple of years ago, and was gradually experiencing a shift in his bees to those of more local lineage.
The first hive to be inspected was a good example of calm bees, needing only minimal smoke and very good on the comb. No problems were found in this hive, although some queen cups had been primed with royal jelly and so would need an eye to be kept on them.
We then walked over to another site, where we initially peeked into a nuc that had been used to hive a swarm from the day prior. The bees were rather crowded, and Heddwyn planned to move the bees to a full-sized hive the following day.
We then looked inside a hive with considerably more defensive bees. The initial suspicion was that the hive was queenless, but soon after opening them up a strange sound was heard – the piping of a virgin queen! Two sealed queen cells were found near the centre of the brood nest, and the worse one was removed, but upon closer inspection this turned out to be a cell that had already been opened, and contained a worker bee. As the hive had been closed up by the time that this discovery had been made, it presented a dilemma, and several experienced beekeepers discussed the likely possibilities. Consensus was that the piping was from a virgin queen in the remaining queen cell, who was being confined there by the workers so that she could be released when a swarm was ready to depart. This presumes that the other queen cell had already hatched, and the virgin queen was loose in the colony. The advice given was to move the frame with the queen cell to a nuc as soon as possible, in effect creating an artificial swarm.
With lots to think about we moved to a quieter location, and Heddwyn demonstrated the Pagden method of artificial swarming with some spare hive equipment that he had prepared. We then had refreshments, and discussed all things bees before going our separate ways. Many thanks to Heddwyn for inviting us to visit has carefully looked after apiary.