This training took place on the 6th of June 2018.
After completing the training, all members of the Association are welcome to join in the training sessions at the apiary. These are designed to give new beekeepers the chance to gain more experience by interacting with additional colonies, other than just their own. I am unsure if this is common practice in all Beekeepers Associations, but I believe it is a fantastic initiative that helps speed track our knowledge and handling skills.
I have not been able to attend these sessions so far, due to other work getting in the way but today was the start of my commitment to attend. I had even made sure to buy new gloves, Marigold type as recommended, to improve my handling ability. But…I forgot them… Bare handed and embarrassed, I walked over to the apiary manager to ask for gloves I could borrow. I was given nitrile gloves, much thinner than the ones I had gotten for myself which made me a little nervous. I sucked it all in and pushed myself to be confident.
Huddled up, the group was briefed on the status of the hives. The first one had varroa mites and would be undergoing a Bailey Comb Change. This is a technique in which the colony is manipulated to move into a new set of comb, thus leaving behind all the infected brood.
The procedure involves placing an empty brood box with new frames on top of the existing one, removing the queen from the bottom and releasing her on the top. Between the two brood boxes is a queen excluder and a piece of newspaper. Amazingly, all the worker bees slowly and methodically chew threw the newspaper following the queen’s scent, leaving all the brood behind. Unfortunately, this means all uncapped brood will die and only the few mature bees will make it out of their cells to join the colony on the upper floor. This also means that all new varroa mites are left behind as well, except for a very small amount that might cleverly latch onto upward travelling bees.
The second one, the one I followed through, was suspected queenless and was going to be merged with a strong colony currently a nucleus. Upon inspecting the queenless colony, we saw no brood but we spotted three queen cells, charged! Charged queen cells have royal jelly at their bottom suggesting that an egg destined to be a queen has been laid. Perplexed as we were, we decided the best course of action was to leave the colony for one more week to see what the outcome might be. As expected, the nucleus was healthy and thriving but it would have to stay put for the time being.
This training session was the first one, yet I had already learned something new: No matter how many years of experience you build, bees will find a way to confuse and surprise you.