The big news for July (and other beekeepers will appreciate how big this is!) is that our colony has “survived” the swarming season largely intact. This has been both helped and hindered by our highly productive, and newly coroneted Queen Mebh. As colonies grow and fill up the spaces in their hive, they want to swarm to produce a daughter colony. As this can weaken the original colony, we try to manage the process. This year in mid-June, we achieved this by creating a “split”. This is where you move a queen cell (a modified version of the standard egg cell which is big enough to house a growing queen), along with several frames of brood (bee larvae), and several hundred house bees into a miniature hive known as a “nuc”. A full sized “national hive” has 11 frames, whereas a nuc contains just 6 frames, just enough space for a developing colony.
The queen emerged in the nuc around the 22nd of June, and is now laying. Over the next couple of months, the colony will hopefully grow big enough to sustain the queen over the coming Winter period. To add to the apiary’s genetic diversity, we acquired a well-established nuc of bees last week, thanks to a generous gift from a beekeeper in Kilternan. This nuc will graduate to a full sized colony in August. We are delighted to be on track to meet our goal for 2017: to have two hives and a nuc of bees going into the Winter
In the meantime, our bees have also been participants in two research projects. The first is a study of the pollen the bees are collecting, using a pollen trap at the entrance to the blue hive. Pollen from different types of plants can have different shapes, and by examining the pollen under a microscope, it’s possible to identify how broad the honeybees’ diets have been. Our colony is being compared with pollen taken from an experimental bumblebee colony located on the Parson’s building alongside our honeybees. The results will be evaluated against 8 other apiary sites in the city and outskirts where the experiment is also being conducted. The second is a study being carried out by the University of Western Australia on honeybee venom as a potential ingredient in breast cancer treatment. We provided 40 worker bees for venom extraction by a visiting researcher, and hope we have been able to contribute to a successful outcome for this important initiative.
As we head towards the end of summer we hope our bees will find a bounty of nectar to put into their stores, and a little extra to cover their rent. Tá samhradh sona!