Sadly, having a broken wrist from my motorcycle accident has left the hive unopened for four months, so a lot of maintenance hasn't been done. It's very necessary to keep the frames of comb neat and being built in the right places.
Plus, my amateur status meant that I hadn't filled the hive fully with frames, so there had been extra comb hanging in the gaps. All this needed to be cleaned off and discarded (see below), leaving honey and brood cells destined for the bin.
Poor girls! They were pretty distressed, and I felt very guilty and responsible for such murder and mayhem in their carefully maintained hive.
So, the hive was split and a new one created in a temporary half sized box. The new queen and her four attendant workers were installed in their tiny box under the lid. Those workers and the hive ladies will eat their way through a block of candy at the side to release them when the hive is ready to accept her. This takes only a few days. Then I need to check for new eggs in about ten days to make sure she and the hive is up and running.
Hives should be filled with enough bees to not only care for the new brood and harvest honey, but to keep the hive cool by flapping their wings, or warm if necessary. Our older three box hive needed to be reduced back to one level only.
Bees are very organised and fastidious at their housework, so after creating such a disaster, we left them to clean up.
When my wonderful helper departed, I went back down to pick up as much comb as I could, because another established hive can rob one that's so vulnerable, killing the inmates and stealing the honey. The comb that I picked up was like a magnet, attracting the workers to take the honey back into the hive, plus the confusion of the exposed brood. I used my bee brush to gently wipe the bees off and drop it quickly into a sheet covered bucket. A second too slow and the furious girls were back into it again.
No stings for either of us, but after I took my gear off and was watering the dry garden, they got me back. They can be amazingly vindictive and tenacious when angered, and I was chased away from my watering by furious little ladies. I was stung on my arm, but I consider it a small price to pay for the damage I did them.
Out with a torch late in the evening, they were still out the front of the hive, cleaning up the comb, and still angry at me! Both hives were loudly abuzz with lots of agitation inside.
I came in with one more up my jeans leg, and copped another sting.
This morning, both hives have bees in it, which augers well for the new hive. Now I am plucking up courage to put my clobber on, light the smoker and do the final housework so they can get on with their lives.
"Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished. "
... Lao Tzu
... Lao Tzu