Just when I think that this productive colony (63.5 lbs honey harvested) is ready for winter, I find the queen lying dead on the landing board. I’ve stopped routine inspections weeks earlier, harvested the last of the cut comb, and given back a full shallow box of winter stores. I notice a lot of action on the landing board. Too much action and excitement for just drone removal I think. My heart sinks when I see last year’s lovely red-painted queen lying dead beneath the melee.
I’m learning my lessons for this year, and how! Cutting back to 3 colonies to make life easier just doesn’t work for me. This year has been exceptionally challenging due to poor weather. Two new queens don’t get mated in time, and I’ve united colonies to prevent fatal laying worker situations. I’ve also been bailed out by my good friends the Smiths who donated a nucleus to my apiary. I bite the bullet and call another friend offering to buy a spare nucleus. It turns out that Sandy has a colony he doesn’t want and he generously lets me have it.
I quickly check the new colony the morning before uniting, and find a lovely 2019 queen marked white (Sandy’s trademark colour). In the evening, I make only a couple of tiny holes in the paper so that the hive odour mixes but the bees have to work hard to join each other. No broadsheets to hand so two sheets of the P & J are pinned down over each box to be separated. I figure local bees will appreciate local news and, like Sandy, they seem to enjoy the football section.
I’m relieved to find such a mess of paper next day and no corpses out front. This has gone well. Phew!