Back from a lovely holiday and our first inspection told us that there was no queen in Hive Jessica. This was a disaster. Having swarmed round about 23rd July, by the time we got back and the weather was good enough to inspect, there should have been signs of a queen and there was not, not even an empty queen cell!
Even if there was an unmated queen by the time she’d matured, been mated and started laying, the first forager bees wouldn’t start work until September. Way too late to build up a strong colony for the winter. The old saying is correct: A swarm in May is worth a load of hay; a swarm in June is worth a silver spoon; but a swarm in July is not worth a fly. We had the remains of a swarmed colony and it wasn’t going to amount to much!
The only option was to merge the remains of Hive Jessica with Hive Rebecca. However, bees have amazing satnav. Once they are used to flying to and from a hive in a particular position they will return to that site. If you move the hive, bees will return to the old site and not to the hive. So you have to move them less than 3 feet or more than 3 miles! Hive Rebecca was more than 3 feet away!
A nightly program of moving Hive Jessica towards Hive Rebecca commenced. Every evening, for a week, Stuart and I walked to the apiary and moved them just a little bit closer together. It’s funny how nice the bees are on a sunny day and how terribly terribly grumpy they are when you disturb their hive at 9pm! We weren’t opening it, just lifting it slightly and moving it. They dive bombed our veils, made a lot of noise and followed us a good 20 metres before they decided to head by home! I must have had a hole in my suit one night as one got through and into my hair. It was particularly annoyed and very noisy but thankfully didn’t sting.
Meanwhile the inspection of Hive Rebecca showed it was doing fine. Eggs, larvae, capped brood, stores and pollen. It was still small, but by merging with Hive Jessica, hopefully the merged hive would be strong enough to survive the winter. Or disaster could strike, both hives would fight it out and there would be carnage. It was a risk but if we did nothing Hive Jessica would definitely die out.