So although I’ve taken a bit of a hiatus from the “urban farming” activities , obviously the birds and the bees have not been impartial to the coming of spring – even though in Victoria it only feels like spring once we hit December!
Yes it’s that time of the year when the bees split their hives and if you’re not very watchful, half of your bees, including your trusted queen, will be up and away in a flash. Now, our bees are very intelligent – somehow they can read the calendar. They only swarm on public holidays or occasionally they’ll swarm on a Sunday afternoon when it’s really uncomfortable to call our mentor, Sam from Geelong Honey Source, out.
So the first swarm happened on the first and only warm Sunday afternoon (of course). We were still thinking we should inspect them soon, as my crazy daughter had already started swimming in the freezing cold pool. So that’s now my trigger for future years – if she starts thinking about swimming, I need to run out and inspect the bees! Anyway, these ones congregated around the bird bath, which is quite open, so it was relatively easy to peel them off (gently) and drop them into the open hive box.
The second lot was more challenging. They swarmed while we were away in Lorne for the school holidays and they assemble next door in one of Graham’s little fruit trees. So I got an interesting call from my friendly neighbour on returning! In addition, the morning they chose to swarm was quite warm, but by lunchtime a three-day long cold spell had set in with drizzling rain. With it being such a young tree, I couldn’t chop the branch to drop them into the empty hive. So we just put the empty hive with number of stickies (empty honey frames) close by to try and lure them in. Some explorers were going in and out, but the next morning they were still all on the branch. It drizzled that night so Graham put a big sheet of roof tin over the tree to protect them. Good man, he is.
So the day next I pushed the hive right under the swarm and hoped they would move in. By dusk they were still clutched in the little tree, so I opened the lid and whacked the branch so that most of them dropped into hive. Under cover of darkness I closed the hive and moved them. Try pick a full hive full of bees over a wobbly fence! Luckily they didn’t mind too much so now we have three hives. Unfortunately I didn’t take any photos during the process, I only have the “happily ever after” shot.
Scott grey shenanigans
During the winter we lost two of the Scott grey hens. One slowly got more and more ill, and despite Patricia’s dedicated nursing efforts, she eventually passed away. We found the other one lying dead in the coop one morning; very mysterious indeed; so marks and she was perfectly fine the previous evening. So flappy, pictured above, was left with two hens.
So when one of Flappy’s hens started going broody, we decided to leave her, and hopefully breed some “fresh” Scott greys ourselves. Last time I looked, she was sitting on 8 eggs, so we should get a few hens from that. Of course, we had to do a lot of “pre-conditioning”, especially to the kids, that we can’t keep any of the young cockerels, despite any pretty names they may get given.
An interesting development is that both of Flappy’s hens are now jointly brooding the eggs. It will be interesting to see how the joint motherhood thing develops. The brooder and heat lamp are on stand-by, but we’re really hoping that they will raise the chicks all by themselves.
There is less than a week left of the incubation period, so watch this space for developments.