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Six of my colonies had 2018 queens and the remaining two were older. The oldest was marked white as a 2015 queen but she was still the most prolific layer producing some very enthusiastic workers. Out of all of these it was the younger queens which started making swarm cells along the bottoms of the central frames. Their first attempts were cut away to try and discourage them but in the end I had to perform some Pagden artificial swarms and make up nucleus colonies with the better queen cells. Within a matter of days the number of hives grew from single figures to rapidly approaching twenty.

We had a visit from Greg Smith of the Hill Street Chocolatiers who wanted to see and photograph the little ladies producing the delicious filling for some of their extra special chocolates.

The hornet traps don’t seem to have been very effective. I removed the tin can holding the apple juice as the ascorbic acid effected the tin-plate producing a most unpleasant odour. Straight juice in the plastic bait holder was not very effective as I watched a queen wasp gathering nest material from a wooden door right alongside. I’ll take them down now and clean them out.

Weekly inspections continued in earnest as the honey harvest mounted throughout the month. Fortunately the open-pollenated oil-seed-rape was much better than the hybrid variety and for the first time if three years I now have some rape honey. I also have about ten supers of partially crystallised honey but these are being washed out one by one as I have the hose-pipe on to water the garden.

I have been called to several swarms, one of which was in the grounds of Wimbish Primary School so we had an impromptu outdoor lesson on honeybees and how to collect a swarm. A lesson I’m sure they’ll remember for a long time.

Other swarms have been collected in Saffron Walden, Debden, Camps End, and one lucky one which came from elsewhere but chose to hang up in the apiary right alongside its new home.