Town and Country: All abuzz as bees keep on multiplying

Our place seems to be great for breeding.

We started with 10 hens and got to almost 100 before we cut back.

A couple of duck eggs became a flock of about 15, with all the accompanying runny poo on the paths, and our two geese had become a bossy, honking flock taking over the lawn before we got rid of them.

The sheep even managed nine lambs the year we thought we had no ram.

Now the bees are at it.

I brought my two hives home in late summer. It was lovely being able to watch the girls more closely, and they came through the winter in good condition.

They began multiplying fast in early spring, so I decided to give them a bit more room by adding another brood box (where they raise baby bees) to each hive. The idea was to stop them swarming due to overcrowding.

A swarm is nature's way of making new hives. Usually in the spring, the old queen flies off with half the workers to find a new home.

They fill up with honey before they go and leave a new queen and the rest of the workers to carry on. They don't go far for a start but just hang around in a clump and wait for the scout bees to find them a new home. In a day or so, they move on and start their new hive.

If you are a beekeeper wanting a lot of honey, one big hive beats two small ones, so you don't want swarming.

My new brood boxes had filled up quickly and when I discovered a source of nice quiet queen bees, I decided to split the hives in two, adding queens to the new ones and so doubling my hive numbers. But I got an extra queen thrown in, so I made five hives from my original two and left them to grow.

Ten days, after a quick peek in each hive, I felt all was going well. However, my self-congratulations fizzled out when I saw a cloud of bees flying in the paddock, and a ball of them hanging in an acacia tree. They'd swarmed anyway.

I shook the clump of bees into a dustbin and on top put a queen excluder - a screen with holes big enough to let worker bees through but not queen bees. The flying bees started to land on the excluder and go into the bin, which meant the queen was in there. So I set up a new hive, then transferred the swarm into that.

In less than two weeks, two hives had become six.

I hope they've finished multiplying for the year. I think six hives will be plenty, this summer at least.


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