Paul visited my out apiary. I needed an experienced view of what was going on. He has Warre hives and so was interested in the site and the hives.
The inspection went well until near the end.
Hive B was still small but there was fresh brood, showing that their supersedure had been successful. They had formed a neat sphere of comb, more obvious because it was foundationless. They'll go into winter with sufficient stores but in need of insulation.
Hive D was busy. 16 sides with brood on them in various states. Quite a bit of store. Probably fine for the winter but they'll need an Autumn glut to balance things.
Hive C was where things went awry. The commercial box is at the bottom. They haven't built any comb in it. The deep box and super now have brood in unexpected places. There doesn't seem to be much order to it. I wonder whether they've become honey bound and the Queen has laid where she can.
The bees in Hive C didn't like us poking through several layers of hive. They got upset and mobbed us. Paul's suit protected him but I was stung on the wrists and ankles. After a while of this I lost my nerve and ran away. Paul said that he'd never seen anyone pursued by a cloud of bees. The angriest followed me for maybe 30 metres until I went inside. Two other non-beekeepers were also stung. One was at ground level 5 stories down. It was not my best work.
We discussed several changes:
- Marigold gloves with disposable nitrile gloves over. He reckons that the bees can't pump their venom through both.
- Spats or wellies to cover ankles
- Inspections only when necessary. They only attacked after we'd been rifling through the hive for a while. Paul suggests that this is a learned behaviour rather than a defensive instinct.
- A wind break for inspections might reduce the disruption to the hive smell. A manipulation cloth would also reduce the effect of wind. A table will keep the bees off the ground and away from ankles. A table will also prevent the queen escaping from under the hive.
The best news is that none of the hives have AFB. All are Queen right. Two are very busy and all look healthy.