Having discovered that Clarissa had become a laying worker hive, we made a rather detailed plan to deal with her and perhaps harvest a little honey in the process.

  • Set up a table and buckets for processing comb under the fruit trees behind the hives.

  • Transfer Clarissa’s top bars to a pair of of eight-frame hive bodies in the garden cart and wheel them to the fruit trees some distance from the table.

  • Move Clarissa’s hive next to nae-sa-wee Angharad behind the barn.

  • The Mrs. would then systematically take a bar, brush off all the bees onto the ground, and carry the comb to her table. There she cut apart the comb, putting capped honey into one container and the rest, containing drone brood and nectar, into another.

  • Meanwhile the Mr. would disassemble Angharad and move the frames into the now empty and relocated Clarissa.

On the morning of the following Sunday (2018-Aug-05) we proceeded to implement it. Naturally, in spite of a smooth start, not all went according to this plan.

We had thought that the Mrs. had the harder job, that the bees would follow the comb to her honey station and bother her there, but instead they seemed keener on returning home. Meanwhile we expected the Mr.’s job to be a doddle, just move frames from here to there, but crazy comb made the task increasingly difficult and the bees increasingly annoyed.

In the top nuc box the bees had just begun to build comb down but on one frame they had also begun to build comb up and that part was soft, new wax heavy with honey and floppy, the work of a moment to cut away and no great harm done. Ah, but it was a portent. The second nuc box was full of honeycomb but with some crossing frame to frame, above the top bars, under the bottom bars. Much surgery was performed with dripping honey, never a happy thing for bees. They began to get upset. The last box seemed full of brood and even more badly crosscombed.

By now the Mr. had called for help from the Mrs. and we fumbled at things together. We tried cutting apart the comb but were dismayed to be cutting through brood and feared damaging a queen in hiding. We tried removing an end frame but the comb broke free from the top. We tried to remove the other end frame but quickly gave it up. We would have to move the five frames as a unit.

As always, the unexpected emergencies leave neither people not time for photography and words must paint the picture. After hasty brainstorming we used a pair of that unusual beekeeping tool, the bar clamp1. Starting on one side of the five frames we slipped the tabs one-by-one onto the bar of an open clamp then tightened it just enough to snugly hold the frames together. Repeat on the other side. Then lift the unit from nuc to hive and undo the clamps. And watch a large outer brood comb go splat into the bottom of the hive.

After running to fetch the house to fetch kitchen twine we applied skills we learned from our cutout. Tying one end of a long bit of twine around a tab of the frame we made several front-to-back loops around the frame, proceeding to the other tab where we again tied off the twine. Unfortunately we made our loops too loose. After another run, this time to the barn for a staple gun, we lifted up on a central loop of twine to get it taut enough and then twisted and stapled it to the top bar of the frame. Finally, after a quick search to reassure ourselves the comb fall had not smashed the queen, we reassembled the hive, moved the bee-less nuc parts away, and retreated to the house.

Third part to come soon.

1It is hard to overstate the convenience of having one’s bee yard in one’s back yard rather than in some distant out yard. Any possession found to be suddenly and unexpectedly useful is just a mad dash away.