Justin's hardworking bees arrived at their new home on one of the green roofs at Poets Road a month ago and today Ian Bailey, from Hackney City Farm visited to check how all 15,000 of them had settled and to give us a training session.
First Ian smoked the bees, tricking them into thinking that their hive is on fire which makes them fill their honey crop with honey as an emergency store to keep them going for a few days incase they have to flee the hive. This has the bonus side effect of calming the bees down so that they are less agitated at having their hive opened up for examination which as Justin, Sarah and I were, like Ian, not wearing a beekeeper's protective suit, was quite a relief! The bees are very friendly and very gently handled so we didn’t really need to worry anyway: infact a BBC camera crew last week happily filmed the beekeeping work without any protective clothing either.
Ian pointed out the brood cells, the sandy coloured areas on the comb foundation frames which contain the young bees and once the larvae have hatched are capped with a permeable mixture of wax, pollen and propolis to allow the developing bees to breathe. The lighter areas of comb are the honey stores, capped with impermeable wax just like their own sealed honey pots, and Ian is quite happy that the bees will have sufficient food to survive the winter.
Ian also showed us the queen bee which he had marked with a spot of white acrylic paint for ease of identification within the colonyEven if she was unmarked, a skilled beekeeper would be able to identify her as she is a little longer than the other bees and she doesn’t climb over the others, she just barges forward and the colony steps aside! The hive was open for just a few minutes in glorious sunshine and once Ian was happy that nothing was amiss he quietly replaced the box sections and roof of the hive and we left them in peace. Ian will continue to periodically check that the colony is healthy and, with careful management, next summer we should be enjoying our own delicious Poets Road honey!