On 7th May, we lost our brave Violette.
For those of you that might be interested to know, in April I wrote that our favourite hive, Violette, swarmed. The swarm arrived happily in a nuke that we had placed on the roof of the old chicken coop and subsequently we transferred her to the end of the garden where we keep our hives.
Two weeks later we noticed a small bundle of bees on the ground, in front of Violette. We suspected that the new queen was among them as I had read that sometimes on return from her nuptial flight she is so tired and heavy that she cannot fly well.
So I decided to gently pry the bees to see what I could find. “There she is!”, Amelia noticed.
I lifted the queen gently and placed her in front of the hive entrance. She walked in and soon the rest of the bees followed her inside. Unfortunately, this happened three times, over two days. Each time she appeared to have tumbled out of the hive. Something strange was definitely happening.
So a couple of days later, on Sunday 7th May, we prepared the smoker to open up Violette. There was no need to use the smoker, as the hive was completely empty. No bees to be found, dead or alive.
I spoke with a couple of very experienced beekeepers who told me that they too have had hives completely empty. They believe that whilst outside the hive they must have been poisoned and subsequently died. We found three closed queen cells in Violette and opened them to see fully formed queens, abandoned by the bees. There was no visible sign of disease on the bees before. We found it strange that a week earlier the hive was full of bees and then nothing. No bees!
The swarm that we had collected from Violette in a six frame nuke, however, was so busy that for a couple of nights we saw some bees staying outside the hive at night. It appeared that there was no room in the inn.
As we had the smoker ready we opened up the nuke, and found out that she had very large brood on both sides of five frame, and a lot of bees moving around. We quickly transferred to a full ten frame hive, plus a super. She is now called Iris.
Violette’s frames were all destroyed in case of any illness, or transfer of any possible poison.
But nature is what it it is and we have to accept that sometimes we win and sometimes we lose.
The two pairs of blackbirds in the back garden appear to have each raised two chicks and the fledglings are ravenous.
The large poppy seeds that I planted at the edge of the vegetable garden last year and they did not grow then, are now in flower and are loved by the bumblebees as well as our honey bees (and of course by us!)
The phacelia that self-seeded from last year’s planting is also well loved by bumblebees and the honey bees.
So as consolation, I made a cup of coffee for Amelia with a little chocolate bunny. “But who is sitting in my chair”, she cried!
The little tree frog, our daily visitor, was nonplussed by our intrusion.