This actually happened on the 24th of May 2018.
So picture this: I have left the ladies to settle in until I get the super on. I am turning the apartment upside down trying to find all the pieces needed to build the super frames. Of course, I forgot to pick up some of the parts when I collected them and now I am panicking because I was advised to get the super on the hive ASAP because the bees don’t have much room!
Not much room – so what? They will swarm again?! They will leave? They will start killing each other? What? Also, will they bother the other hives next door? Will the bees next door bother mine? Oh my buddy beekeeper will hate me if I cause havoc! The whole time I am thinking that with every passing day without those pieces and without the frames, disaster is that much closer to happening.
And it did (in my opinion at least).
I finally got the bits from the Association after what felt like ages (it only took 3 days), built the frames and went over to get the super on the brood box. All in all, this took about a week from when the bees moved in.
I also mistakenly thought this was a good time for me to conduct my first inspection. Yes, definitely a mistake. Getting near was easy enough and taking off the roof was ok as well. It was only when I started getting into the busy frames that I realised my bees were really not going to tolerate me today.
It started with a change on the collective buzz tone. Then appeared one, rogue bee which started to bump into my net. That one got a friend to join. I soon realised my smoke was out so calming them down was out of the question. Soon enough, they got a whole gang to rise and fly in the air in alarm.
Then something extraordinary happened. I felt a little pull on my glove and there it was; a bee, clenching onto my glove, trying to reach my skin with her sting. What was extraordinary was that I felt it! I didn’t think that such a small creature could have so much strength. However, that was my cue to leave. I decided to just let them be (pun not intended). Luckily, the sting didn’t reach my skin and neither myself nor the bee were hurt. I was then escorted by two bees bumping into me up until I was out of the apiary, just like a teenager insisting to get into a club. I tried to go in there three times, each time escorted back out. I had to then give up finishing the inspection.
I do wonder about the bee that didn’t succeed. Would that bee now think twice before stinging? Just like when you do something really impulsive but realise you could have almost died and this makes you more reluctant the next time…Unless you are an adrenaline junkie…Or a mother – mothers will do anything under the maternal instinct. Do worker bees have maternal instincts? They do feed the brood after all until it is ready to fend for itself…
Inspection Results: Apart from hating me, the bees looked healthy. I spotted larvae and capped brood, and my gut feeling is that there will be eggs and a queen present, even though I didn’t spot her. They had eaten almost all the honey in the frame I had placed for them and were only just about starting to collect their own. I guess that is ok as they are just a swarm and their numbers will lower before they increase again.
What I did spot however, were what looked like queen cells.This has confused me completely because why would a swarm want queens again? Was I late to add the super and they feel overcrowded? They can’t be possibly swarming again! There are no drone cells… Could the queen have died?
While writing this, I have the benefit of hindsight. I believe I made the following mistakes:
- I inspected the colony only one week after the swarm was placed in the hive. I should have waited at least two weeks, giving them more time to settle down.
- I had no smoke, really.
- I conducted my inspection late in the day. This meant more bees were back from foraging as well as it was cooler, especially when I removed the roof.
- My gloves were big and thick which made me clumsy in handling the frames.
- I did not place a couple of frames on the side of the hive to free up space for me to maneuver the frames more efficiently. This meant that my inspection took much longer than it should have.
- I later learned that when a bee stings, the venom sack that is ripped out of its body, releases a smell that warns the rest of the bees of a predator. I don’t know if this applies to a bee that attempts to sting but doesn’t quite succeed. But this could have been why they kept escorting me out of the apiary.