This weekend I collected my first nucleus, my first bee colony starter pack. We drove to Banbury and met the very courteous and helpful Viktor and Lucy Zaichenko at honeybeesuppliers, who introduced us to our new pets. Everything seemed to be in order (although what does a novice know?) so we put them in the car boot and headed home (they were in a sealed box!). It was a bit like collecting any other pets; one minute you’re an interested observer, the next you’re a responsible owner. The inevitable flashed through my mind, Am I mad? 10,000 more mouths to feed!
The bees travelled well, cushioned on their picnic blanket. There was no car sickness or unpleasant smells, just a low level contented buzz.
So then it was time to pop them into their new home. I had intended to do only top bar beekeeping, as I believe top bar beekeeping is better for the bees, but after a lot of discussion decided to start with conventional WBC frames and progress to top bar in my next hive. In theory top bar beekeeping is easier as the bees are left to their own devices more, but without a local top bar beekeeper on hand to advise me I felt using WBC frames was a safer place to start. And one of the advantages of the Home Beehive I’m using is that it can be used for either approach, so I can convert it to a top bar hive at a later date.
All five frames were covered with female worker bees. No doubt there were some male drones too, but for the untrained eye they were too difficult to spot. We did see our beautiful, sleek queen though who is almost twice as long as the workers. She is shinier and darker than the others and she has a white spot on her back to make her easier to see. She had clearly been hard at work as there were lots of eggs in various stages of development. Just what a beekeeper wants to see.
My job now is to keep the queen happy. To do that I need to keep the workers happy, which means feeding them with sugar syrup. Its so cold at the moment the workers will not want to be out foraging. A few of them have been scouting around, hopefully reporting back the good news that there is a field of rape within 200m, so I imagine they will be able to feed themselves in a week or two. Not many pets can manage that!