The Hermitage Sisterhood 2020

The Hermitage Sisterhood 2020

Thursday 2nd July 2020 – Here We Go Again by The Ginger Queen

So you thought the swarm season was over, well I can tell you that’s not the case down here at The Hermitage. For the second time this year I have been moved to another new half sized house with a very small part of my household. The remainder has been left to raise another Ginger Princess to join the new rather darker one in my original blue and yellow prefab. Gingers are on the rise! The Doctor is not so keen on our colour but our temperament is second to none here at the Sisterhood.

It was much cooler this week and The General was much happier as a result. After The Bright Shiner Queen moving out last week the old Queens were a priority today, which was just as well because The Hippy Happy Bees were preparing their old girl to move out and she was mightily relieved when The Doctor found the signs and moved her pronto into a half size box down onto the third row. The General then found the same was happening with my family. After trying for years to raise a successor to my mother, which eventually resulted in me, she thinks it ironic that my family suddenly want to reproduce our special genes. I’m now on the 3rd row next to The Hippy Happy Queen.

The other old Queens are fine and not showing any signs of moving on again – yet. To be clear, The Bright Shiners, The Hippy Happy Bees and my family were the first to be swarm controlled this year and maybe the others who were a bit later will stay put now. But I think The General and The Doctor will still be keeping an eye on them for any more shenanigans. The Slim Shady Queen has stopped sulking and is building up in her 6 frame prefab. Given her previous exploits The General has added a half brood to her prefab to give her bit more space without having to build her a new full sized house complete with extra furniture.

Once all the old Queens had been thoroughly checked, they got down to the interesting business of checking all those queen cells that were distributed from The Bright Shiner house last week. In the Bright Shiner house the best one was selected and this looks to be fine and fingers crossed they will raise a nice new Princess. In what was house 18 and is now a half sized house, they had drawn up new cells some of which were unsealed and these were left. The sealed queen cell that had been there from last week was removed which was a good thing, since on examination it had a dead larva in it.

You will remember from last week that the original box was moved away and the flyers would return here. Hopefully they will raise a new princess from one of the unsealed cells. Two were left as it is a small colony and should not produce a cast. The other two experiments don’t look like they will be successful since there are definite signs of laying workers in both boxes. They have been left for another week but I expect the laying workers will kill any new Princess. Similarly, The Hippy Happy split that looked as if it might have laying workers definitely has. Since this is still a big colony, The Doctor was unhappy about tipping it out today because if all the bees returned to the nearest house they would most likely swamp The Shilling Queen’s family and he did not want to risk her being killed. The General suggested a two stage compromise. The laying worker house was moved down below the bottom row in between two strong families, the flying bees should go into the Shilling house, which should not be too many to cause a problem. Next week the rest of the bees can be tipped out and they should spread themselves between the other colonies, again thinly enough that they don’t swamp another family.

Three potential new princesses were examined next. First up was the Unlucky Thirteen Princess that was examined last week with a few eggs present. Today, there was capped worker brood, but no young larvae or eggs, no Queen and one large queen cell. This gave rise to speculation about what has happened here. Has the new queen started laying then failed or did the sisters not like her for some reason and want to produce another Princess? This happens more often than you would suppose with almost immediate supercedure of a newly laying queen and we have seen it a few times over the years at The Sisterhood. One week a new queen is marked then two or three weeks later she has vanished and an uncrowned Queen is in there. We aren’t doing very well this year for new Princesses becoming Queens , this now makes three failures out of five potential princesses.

The visit did end on a good note however as daughters of the Shilling Queen and the now re-homed Six Queen have been successful with lovely frames of capped worker brood and stunning big Queens. Both of which were given smart blue crowns. So we now have four successes out of seven, which doesn’t seem so bad with another three new Princesses still to be examined.

That’s all for this week people.

May your pollen stores be plentiful.
The Ginger Queen

Thursday 25th June 2020 – Double, Double, Toil and Trouble by The Shilling Queen

I’m the Shilling Queen, the most senior Queen of the Sisterhood. My yellow crown is fading a little but I’m still going strong and thriving down on the bottom row. With all the goings on down here this week I thought it was time for you to hear my thoughts on today’s visit.

It was hotter than a witch’s cauldron down here on Thursday when The General and Doctor visited. They were really a few days too late – but I’ll get to that shortly. Eleven days is too long between visits, however we know they are busy people with many families of their own to look after as well as a number of 4-legged beasts to sort out too. You’d think they’d have realised by now that those of us with 6 legs are the most important beings on the planet and that those of you with two legs are just our servants. We love the heat, the girls just soak it up and fly happily to forage and there is lots of food still coming in with the meadowsweet, brambles and other summer plants starting to flower in the verges. Sadly, I have to report that The General does not like the heat, especially togged up in her PPE which makes her crosser as the afternoon wears on, her face gets redder and the specs slide down her nose with the sweat – not a pretty picture! I have to say that I don’t think we helped her temper much either. It’s a good job The Doctor was here with his clear thinking and bright ideas.

Let me take it from the top:
They arrived with a long list of old queens to check as well as various other jobs. They started with my next door neighbours. If you remember from last week, this hive was given a frame of eggs from the Hippy Happy Queen as there did not appear to be a new princess in this house. They wanted to see if the girls would try to make another princess and start making queen cells. Well, they haven’t drawn up any queen cells on the added frame and it looked as though someone had been laying babies in there, but the furniture is quite dark and hard to see, sadly the ones that were visible looked more like boys than girls. Does this mean there is a drone laying queen in the house or have some of the workers been laying eggs? It does happen from time to time that the workers get a bit desperate and start laying but it always ends in disaster as the babies all turn out to be boys and the family dies out. It wasn’t clear cut, so The Doctor thought the best thing was to put in another frame of eggs from The Hippy Happy Queen to ‘hold them’ for a week and it may be clearer next time once the new babies are sealed in their cells.

After that disappointment they got on with the old Queen checking, which was going well was going well with The Cherryburn Queen and the ’17’ Queen being moved up to full size houses. The Slim Shady Queen is still sulking and only building up very slowly in her half size prefab so she was left as she was. The General came down to check me and was quite relieved to be in the shade and visit my lovely family. She was very happy with us and smiling, despite her specs sliding down her nose, until The Doctor called from the top row with the news that The Bright Shiner Queen was gone. She still had space in her home but had decided that she was moving on. Really, the Queens in that family are so ungrateful! The girls they breed are very well tempered but the Queens are a bit independent minded.

Obviously if they had been checked at 7 or even 8 days instead of 11 they might have been relocated within the Sisterhood. In The General and Doctor’s time-honoured fashion they decided it was time for a sandwich, a drink and a discussion about what to do. So they shut up the Bright Shiners, without taking down any queen cells as they might be needed to rescue some families whose princesses had failed and moved into the shade for a bite to eat.

After lunch they visited the house which should have had a new daughter from the Bright Shiner Queen (Number 18). Sadly there wasn’t. It had drone brood and several queen cells, which would have had boys in them. No queen was found – Oh dear! Two new princess failures out of two! Double, double indeed! So, is there a drone laying queen hiding in there or is it laying workers? What to do? The General was sweating even more and starting to get quite despondent. The Doctor came to the rescue – “Let’s make a nuc up on this site with a frame which has a queen cell and lots of capped brood and a frame of food together with their adhering bees from the swarmed Bright Shiner house, after all, they are the same family. We’ll move the 18 house away to a temporary stand and the flying bees will return to the nuc and we’ll see if they raise a new queen”. So that’s what they did and for good measure since there were lots of queen cells in the swarmed Bright Shiner house they put one into this house too just to see if they will raise it. If there are laying workers or a drone laying queen in there they will tear it down, but at least once all the flyers return to the new nuc then it will be easier to see what is going on in there.

Those of you with good memories may remember that a few weeks ago a small swarm was collected from the front of the 18 house and placed into a poly nuc. At the time The General and Doctor thought it was a strange place to find a swarm, so maybe the ‘swarm’ had been bees that had flown out to accompany the new princess on a mating flight but she didn’t return and they were hanging out waiting for her. We will never know what happened here but hopefully using a variation of Roger Patterson’s two frame nuc method will give a good result.

I’ll jump ahead here since it makes more sense. As a general rule you should always examine a swarm last unless you are absolutely sure where it has come from, in case there is any disease in the swarm, and that’s what they did but I’ll report on that now. The swarm in the poly nuc was most definitely queenless with obvious signs of laying workers present, with several eggs in most cells, many on the sides of the cells. The only solution for laying workers is to take them a good distance away from the original site and tip them out. The flyers will come back and find their way into neighbouring hives and this manoeuvre is one that should most definitely be done after all other jobs have been finished. The Doctor was absolutely on fire here and suggested they put a fresh nuc on the site with yet another queen cell from the swarmed Bright Shiner house, so that’s what they did. The flyers from the tipped out box will return here and as the laying workers are usually lost they should not cause a problem. These queen cell experiments may come to nothing but it will be interesting to see the results in a few weeks time.

Ever hopeful, The General and Doctor started to look to see if there were any successful Princesses at the Sisterhood this year or if they were all going to be ‘duds’. The Sandy Prefab was the next up and Hurrah! Babies on 6 frames, phew! The new queen was seen and she was given a smart blue crown, the first one this year at The Hermitage. Her Mum was quite dark but this one is pretty ginger. This cheered The General up no end!

Next they moved down to see if the Ginger Queen had a new Princess on the block. This Princess is in the blue and yellow prefab and yes, there is a new queen here too and she was given a blue crown as well. Her Mum is very ginger and this one is quite dark. Just goes to show how mixed the genetics are in the Tyne valley. Most of the brood was not yet sealed but it looks like nice worker brood. Hurrah, it’s no longer two failures from two but now two successes from four.

The Doctor and General had planned to look at another 3 potential new Princesses on this visit and they did look at one more. There were eggs and some small larvae in cells but no queen was seen, so they decided it was probably too early to look in the others and operations were suspended for the day. The General nearly had to be poured out of her beesuit at the end of the session.

Oh, by the way, if you are wondering what they did with the swarmed and now very depleted Bright Shiner hive. It was left with one open queen cell with a nice fat grub but still about 4 frames of brood, so hopefully, although the Bright Shiner Queen has moved on to pastures new we may have at least one if not 4 new daughters from her.

Until next time – May the river provide.

The Shilling Queen

Notes from The General and The Doctor
In a normal year you would not expect all of your potential matings to be successful and we think 50 to 60% is probably average, with some variations on this due to weather conditions. This year, although the weather has generally been much better than we often see in Northumberland in the spring and early summer, it seems that both at home and at the apiary, the very earliest splits have had a few more failures and some new queens have taken a long time to start laying. We wonder if this was because there were fewer mature drones very early on. It will be interesting to see if the later splits produce a higher success rate.

The Roger Patterson ‘2 frame nuc’ was described by Roger at our meeting at Newton last March and also on one of his recent BIBBA webcasts. This link will take you to BIBBA’s webinar page. Look for the “2 frame nuc” recording from 23rd June.

Sunday 14th June 2020 – The Waiting Game by The Hippy Happy Queen

Hi everyone! Me again, I’m sitting happily as you would expect up here on the second row with a good view over the Hermitage and able to keep an eye on the goings on down at the Sisterhood. June this year looks like it will be a lull in proceedings with not much happening, especially since the Slim Shady Queen is safely tucked away in her little prefab. This next couple of weeks marks the watershed between all the swarm control that The General and Doctor have been doing over the last few weeks and waiting to see if the new princesses have successfully married and are producing new families of their own.

We don’t have much of a June gap down here near the river and the villages and my girls always seem to be able to find some forage. The local gardens are a big bonus for us with lots of flowering shrubs humming with the sisters just now. The clover is also just starting to come into flower and that is always a good source of food for us. The biggest problem over the last week or so has been the weather; it’s been really cold and wet. In fact The General was due to visit last Thursday but I think she stayed in bed – we certainly did. It is a good job that we have all been filling our pantries over the last couple of months, we needed to dip into the stores to keep us going but the weather is improving and all the families at The Hermitage are out and foraging well. When the General and Doctor visited today we were busier than Heathrow airport making up for lost time. We could have done with a bit of air traffic control. It’s amazing we don’t have lots of mid air collisions the space is so busy but we are bees and flying is what we do best.

The main business today was to check up on all us ‘old’ queens to make sure we have space and stores to see us through. The queens in the half size houses were the first to be checked for space and food. Those ‘unlucky’ Thirteens are doing really well and The Doctor moved them up into a full sized house. The others are still OK in their little homes for now as they have mostly stayed still since the last visit, which is totally due to the weather. However, everyone has sufficient food to see them through the next week or so until the next visit.

The only other job was to inspect the house on the bottom row that I came from to see if my new princess was married and laying up a new family. Sadly, I have to report that the signs were not good. When the General opened the house up the sisters were pretty noisy, not a good sign from one of my family. As she looked through the main room of the house she grew increasingly despondent, no signs of a new queen at all, not even any space made for a new queen to lay. When she got to the old queen cell it didn’t look as if it had been opened and there was a dead bee in there, although it looked more like a worker than a princess, so we aren’t quite sure what happened there. All is not lost however, while The General continued to look through the main room and also check the pantries just in case a Princess had wandered up there and got stuck (she hadn’t). The Doctor came up to see me and as I have been rebuilding my family pretty well since I moved, I have lots and lots of frames with eggs and babies. The Doctor selected a good frame with some well developed babies and also quite a few eggs and this was whisked down to the other house and placed in the middle of the main room to see if the housemaids will draw up a new princess. This of course will need checking in a week or so to select the best queen cell and I hope they make a better choice this time, as the last one was pretty rubbish.

The pantries of quite a few of our families are very well stocked and some frames that were full and nicely capped were selected from 3 families and put into a box to take to The Dirty Jobs Lady as she doubles up as The Honey Extraction Lady when needed. The General made sure that all of the families were left with lots of food in their pantries just in case it gets cold again.

Well it’s a short report this week and I think it will be another week or so before we see them again but no doubt The General and The Doctor have enough to keep them busy with their own sisters at home. The General did tell me that some of their families are off on their holidays to visit some fields of beans – yum, really good forage there.

Look out for our next episode when, hopefully, there will be some good news about Princesses becoming new Queens and starting their own families.

Flower power and all that.
Your Hippy Happy Queen and her bees

Thursday 4th June 2020 – Puzzles and Another Hermitage Mystery
by The Slim Shady Queen

I’m still sitting here sulking in this little prefab with my much diminished family. It’s a very different life for me at the moment and sounds rather like the lock-up you humans have all been experiencing recently. At least we have food and some of my housemaids have been promoted up to foraging so they are off to the village when the weather permits to feast on the pink humming bushes and the beautiful white blossoms of the firethorn. I thought I’d amuse myself by telling you the outcome of the muddle left behind when I was unceremoniously dumped along here.

My regular fans will know that I have been escaping through the puzzle gate, well not so much escaping as treating it with complete disdain and coming and going as I chose. As you know the puzzle gate is designed to keep queens in their main rooms and not parading around their pantries. Well, I have done this not only once but twice through two different puzzle gates, much to the annoyance of The General, so that means I have left behind a main box with babies in various stages and also two pantry boxes with more babies in various stages, most of which are darling baby boys. Also spread around my babies are liberal frames of food and pollen, no-one goes hungry in my family. There are also lots and lots of new boys mooching about the house with their shades, bomber jackets and deep voices. Oh I do love a good group of boys in my house. The General is very happy to see lots of my sons here as, although she says I am a right royal pain in the posterior, my girls and boys are the loveliest, quietest and some of the darkest bees in the whole Hermitage and she is very happy for my boys to influence the temperaments of the newest families.

OK, back to the job in hand. The General wanted to sort this muddle out before a new princess emerges and also to check all the frames for queen cells, which is quite difficult when my housemaids went a bit off piste with their comb building in the top box. It was definitely a two man job, so three wooden floors were brought in and one pantry box was put on a wooden floor on top of my neighbour’s house and the other pantry box was put on a wooden floor on top of a couple of roofs. The Doctor had decided he wasn’t going to be bending down as far as the ground and kneeling wasn’t a good idea as the grass was quite wet today. Why the third floor I hear you ask? This was their cunning plan, they brought down an empty pantry box from the shed and this was to be used to help sort out the muddle of my two pantry boxes. The General sorted through the main box and made a chalk mark on any frame with queen cells and then they started on the pantries.

Oh boy! A proper puzzle, it did make me chuckle to see how hard they had to work. Any frames with just food were put into the new pantry box. Then any frames with just small patches of brood and no queen cells were put in until that box was full. Now we came to the ‘nitty gritty’ of sorting through the frames of baby boys and girls and looking in all the nooks and crannies for any elusive queen cells. Any frames with queen cells were marked. Eventually the best queen cell in the main room was selected as the most promising new princess and the main room was all put back together neatly. All the other queen cells were taken down to ensure there wouldn’t be any cast swarms. On top of the main room a newly cleaned puzzle gate was added because The General does not want my successor playing in the pantries.

Oh no! I can hear you exclaiming what about all the baby boys still to emerge – they’ll get stuck in the puzzle gate and there is nothing more upsetting than boys stuck in the puzzle gate. All is well however, a few years ago Trog made some comb change pieces to fit between boxes that will give an upper entrance above the puzzle gate so hopefully all my lovely boys will exit the top boxes that way. Although I have to say that some of them are a bit dim and may still try to get through the puzzle gate rather than use the new door. The General has promised that she will check the top boxes next week to let out any boys that haven’t managed to find the new way out.

So, that is my puzzle all sorted out and hopefully my new princess will continue with our line. The two other families that had their queens moved out last week were also reduced to one potential princess but that was a much simpler operation and went very smoothly. We should have a nice succession of new princesses emerging to be mated at The Hermitage, some may not make it as we discussed last week and the weather this last week hasn’t been great for those princesses wanting to get out and fly so fingers crossed.

The Mystery of the Swarm
Do you remember from last week’s episode that The Doctor saw a swarm on the front of the old Bright Shiner house and put it into the other half size prefab? Well they both had a look to see what the state of play was in there. I can report that all the bees were still there and they were drawing out comb on the bare furniture and bringing in lots of nectar, however it was not a prime swarm as there was no brood yet. The furniture frames looked as if they were being prepared for some laying with nectar and pollen around the outsides of the furniture and space left in the middle for a new queen to start laying. The General thought she saw an egg or two but not enough to be sure anyone was laying up properly. This was five days after the swarm was collected so just about the time you’d expect a newly married Queen to be getting started. They didn’t linger as they didn’t want to disturb her too much.

The mystery deepens: If this is a swarm with a virgin or just mated Queen, where did she come from? The first suggestion was that she was from the old Bright Shiner house, so they had a quick look in there. The whole house was absolutely hooching with bees so quite unlikely they had lost a significant number of bees in a swarm. So if not from there, then where? Did they come from somewhere else and just decided that the front of the Bright Shiner house was a good place to break their journey and rest for the night? Or are they actually Hermitage sisters that got a bit confused and drunk with excitement after accompanying their new princess on her mating flight and couldn’t find their own house, like proper Geordie lasses on a hen night? Not the first time this has happened and probably not the last. I’m not sure that this mystery will be solved. Once The General starts looking for newly married Queens she may find a house that doesn’t have one and that may be where the mystery swarm came from. Particularly if the Sandy prefab is queenless as this is next door to the old Bright Shiner house, although that doesn’t say much for the orientation skills of her bees if they mistake a neat wooden house for the hulking great Sandy pre-fab!

So that’s this week’s episode almost done and dusted and it has kept me amused recounting all the goings on at The Hermitage to you. A puzzle sorted out and a still unsolved mystery. All of us relocated Queens are well and a couple have been moved up from half sized houses to full sized bungalows as we are growing fast. In another week or two The General and Doctor will need their best observation eyes as they will be starting to look for newly married Queens. But, for this week, that’s all from The Hermitage Sisterhood.

Please stand up –
I’m the real Slim Shady!

Thursday 28th May 2020 – Comings and Goings by The Slim Shady Queen

Drat, drat and triple drat! I’ve been captured and moved to a half size prefab prison. The Doctor found me today and into the prison I went, no more roaming through three storeys in unfettered bliss. Now I’m confined to this little box with some of my housemaids and only 1 frame of babies for company, at least they have given me somewhere to lay and some food but it is serious demotion and I am not a happy Queen.

I know my housemaids were just starting to build my replacement and The General had spotted it but I still don’t think it’s any excuse to put me in such a pokey little prison. In a week or so I could have been flying free with half my household to found a glorious new empire.

While I sit and sulk along the row from my old palace and all my foragers desert me for the new princess in waiting, I will amuse myself by telling you all about the other families in the Sisterhood this week.

Apart from me, two other queens were moved out this week and that is the last of the swarm control moves done here. The three families whose queens were moved out last week have had their new potential princesses reduced to one apiece.

On the forage front, the yellow peril is almost at an end but the pink humming bush is going strong in the nearby villages and we will be reliant on lots of garden flowers as well as the hedgerow goodies for the rest of the summer.

I think the big news this week is that 3 of our green crowned Queens and one red one are moving to new homes to continue their dynasties in other areas. The Hermitage Sisterhood will soon take over the Tyne Valleys and beyond. New houses were dropped off for our moving families and The General and Doctor checked the families thoroughly to make sure they were fit for the move and new green crowns applied to 2 of the Queens as they had worn off a bit. Because it was very hot the green stuff was a bit runny and the Queens got a bit more colour than they were expecting, not The General’s normally tidy crown application, I think the sweat was running down her face and blurring the already dodgy vision.

30th May update
The moves went smoothly and all the families went off to their new homes tonight. The General and Doctor waited until all the foragers were in for the night then blocked up the entrances, strapped up the houses and moved them up past the shed to be collected. The new keepers all looked delighted to be acquiring Sisterhood families and I’m sure they will be very happy in their new homes.

While they were waiting for the families to be collected, The Doctor spotted a large collection of bees on the front of the old Bright Shiner house, where there should just be one new princess – did they miss another potential princess and was she moving out or is it a swarm from somewhere else? Who knows? Anyway they swept all the bees from the front of the house into the other half size prefab and moved them into the space recently vacated by one of our moving families – jumping and graves comes to mind here.

The General had wanted to make some space as we were becoming very overcrowded down here, especially since there were 3 more house splits done this week. Today we got up to 22 houses of various sizes, which is far too many for 4 terraces. The General was congratulating herself on finding new homes for 4 of our Sisterhood girls and making a bit of space, but then they find this swarm and what had been 4 spaces quickly became 3. So we now have 19 houses with full crowned Queens in 8 of them and 11 houses with potential princesses in them.

The question now is: How many of the potential princesses will get out to find many husbands and return safely to found their own new families? The pitfalls are many: Will the new princess emerge from her cell in good shape and manage to gain her strength and test her wings before flying out on those most perilous of flights? Will the weather be good on the days when she wants to fly? Will she get eaten by a great tit or swallow? Will she find her way back to the right house? If all these things go well then she should be back in her own home and start laying new babies about 2 – 4 weeks after she emerged from her warm cocoon.

As a rule The Doctor and General leave about 4 weeks after they have selected the best queen cell before they look again to see if there is a new laying queen. And if they can’t see any evidence of a new queen, if the family feels OK and is not distressed then they will leave it another week before looking again and give the girl a bit of time to get herself together and start laying. So if any of you out there are itching to look to see if you have new queens and if they are laying, we at The Sisterhood would say please don’t disturb your new princesses too soon, they can be a bit flighty and you don’t want to lose her.

I did hear The General tell The Doctor that this would be the last of the marathon sessions down at The Hermitage for a couple of weeks. Next week there will be 3 families in which to select the best queen cell and the old queens (I’m sure they don’t mean me) to inspect to make sure they have sufficient space and don’t need moving up to full size houses but they won’t be inspecting the new princesses for a couple of weeks yet.

Please stand up – I’m the real Slim Shady!

Thursday 21st May 2020 – The Hermitage Mysteries – By The Unlucky Thirteen Queen

Triskaidekaphobics beware! Here is this week’s episode courtesy of me the Hive 13 queen. That cousin of mine the Hippy Happy Queen dubbed us the “Unlucky Thirteens” and now it has stuck. But I am here to tell you there is nothing unlucky about me or my girls. I am the first of the younger queens to join the Sisterhood authorship, up to now this year your correspondents have all had red crowns but I have a beautiful green crown given to me last year and this is my first time getting ready to move house. Yes, more moving going on at The Hermitage with another three families on the move this week, but first I need to tell you about this week’s mysteries.

The Mystery of the Missing pen and a Missing Queen dominated this week. It sounds like Enid Blyton in beesuits. It was a very long session for the poor old dears today, made even longer by The Hermitage Mysteries. The first mystery was the missing green pen, the very one that gave me my green crown last year. They wanted to remark one of the other green queens as her crown has almost rubbed off. The Doctor had a blue, red and white pen in his toolkit and The General had a blue and yellow pen in hers. They both looked in the other toolkits and all the shelves in the shed but to no avail. No green pen! Where on earth could it be? It was there last year as several of us were given a green crown and now it has mysteriously disappeared and apparently not to be found.

The second mystery, which took a fair while to unravel, was the mystery of the missing queen. This of course is that slippery character the Slim, Shady Queen. She is the difficult girl on brood and a half if you remember. Well, the storeys were split and The Doctor took the main box and The General looked through the small second storey. As they were going through we could hear them discussing what they could see. Both had lots of sealed brood, a few larvae but very few eggs. The General’s box had lots and lots of boys ready to emerge. When the were about half way through The General was wondering whether they had already moved house, it looked likely with lots of drones, lots of capped brood and very few eggs, but as they both got to the end of their boxes no queen cells and no Slim, Shady Queen. I’m sure you avid Sisterhood followers are well ahead of me here. They looked at each other and then at the pantry lying on our house roof – she couldn’t have done it again, could she?

The General started to look through the pantry, the first couple of frames were all honey and nectar and there on the third frame were lots and lots of eggs! Three frames in the pantry had lots of eggs but as a couple of frames were cross combed it was very difficult to see all parts to look for her. Slim Shady wasn’t to be found anywhere. So the new queen excluder has failed to hold her too. “Beggaring about again” at least that’s what I thought The General said. The upshot is the Slim Shady bees are now on brood and two halves!!!! The General is not a happy soldier. She is making plans for Slim Shady the next time she is found – I think it’ll be straight into a half size house, but finding her in that “Beggers’ Muddle” is going to be challenging.

So the “Mystery of the Missing Queen” is partly solved: she’s there somewhere and not moved out, so watch out next week to see if she is found. As for “The Mystery of the Green Pen”, that looks as if it might not be resolved without a total shed clear out. The prospect of which made The Doctor quickly suggest they could bring the green pen from home next time.

I said it was a long session for the poor old dears, five hours in fact, although they did stop for a couple of breaks, good job they bring a picnic. After a short break they were back to the seasonal and labour intensive house moving going on at The Hermitage: I was top of the list for inspection by The General this week as I had 8 furniture frames of babies last week and sure enough my housemaids were discovered busy building my replacement. My family is in tip top health, although The General has warned the housemaids about building queen cells on the top bars as they do tend to get ripped when the frames are separated. The General has moved me and some of my housemaids out into a half sized house and I’ve been promoted from the bottom row all the way up to the top row in the sun. The same has been done for the old, yellow crowned Shilling Queen, I bet she was glad not to have to fly at her great age. She is now on the bottom row in a half sized house too. The Tanner bees have also been split up and the Tanner Queen is now also on the bottom row, that makes 7 Hermitage families that have moved house this month already, with possibly another 3 to go next week. Where on earth are they going to go? The Doctor is making plans for temporary stands.

The other major job for The Doctor and General this week was the selection of the best queen cell in the families that moved out last week. This was done with minimum fuss again and these families will be left in peace now for the next four weeks to give the new princesses time to get going without interruption.

The previous two Hermitage Sisterhood episodes have covered moving house and selecting new queen cells, so I won’t bore you with it again and I think The Hippy Happy Queen and The Bright Shiner Queen covered the details very well. The Doctor has found a really useful article on selecting the best queen cell that you, dear readers, might find useful and has attached a link to it at the end of this episode.

Just a quick update on the two small colonies, they are doing well and expanding nicely now although The General is hopeful they won’t want to be moving house anytime soon. The queens that have already been re-homed were checked too and they are all going on nicely. The General is hoping that the majority of the house moving is nearly over and after three weeks of hard work with probably one more to go they may be able to do a bit less. Poor old souls they need to get their feet up a bit more.

That’s all folks. Join us again next week for more of the same and fingers crossed that slippery Slim Shady Queen will make a re-appearance.

Unlucky for some but not us.

The “Unlucky Thirteen” Queen.

Queen Cells… quantity and quality” – Link to article in The Apiarist

Friday 15th May 2020 – By The Bright Shiner Queen

Here we go folks – another new queen for this week’s update. I’m The Bright Shiner Queen. I was a Polyhive princess once. I have a red crown and have been around for a couple of seasons now. My sister, the Slim Shady Queen, has already written for you and now it’s my turn.

The Government has told us it’s OK to move house. So a few of us here have taken that advice literally and we’re making preparations for moving out. Some of us are further on than others. My near neighbour, the queen in the Sandy Prefab, obviously didn’t like their new extension too much and are just thinking about a new property and the Ginger Queen in the blue and yellow prefab are a bit further on again with their preparations and were looking to move in a few days. But my family, well, we just about had the Pickfords truck at the door, when The General and Doctor came to visit today. They split our two storeys down and The General looked through the top storey and The Doctor through the bottom. A few frames of furniture in and The General found me moseying about, nicely slimmed down ready to fly, just packing up my last few possessions and, as is their current habit, quick as a flash placed me in a small prefab to keep me safe.

At this point they hadn’t seen our moving preparations, but because so many of us are thinking about moving they are taking a small prefab to each family they inspect so that they can put the queen in when they find her and know she is safe, in case they have to do some alterations to our houses and it’s so much easier if they know where the most important resident is. Anyway, on with the story:

Just after I was put safe in the small prefab, The Doctor found several open queen cells with royal jelly and a larva in each. As he moved through our furniture frames he came upon two queen cells that my housemaids had only just finished completely! We were literally on the point of moving out. They were both very relieved that they had caught me in time. If we hadn’t gone later this afternoon then we would definitely have moved out tomorrow.

I’ve now been moved along the row to the other side of the Sandy Prefab, in fact, and it was all done in the same way as The Hippy, Happy Queen last week – so you can look at last week’s episode if you need to know the details. My flyers will all return to the original hive and The General and Doctor will come back there in six or seven days to check on my new princesses and reduce them to the best one. I’m not sure whether I’m happy or disappointed. On the one hand, I don’t have to fly out into the great unknown and I am safe in my house with an albeit reduced staff of housemaids – but, maybe it would have been an adventure, and you never quite know where you are going to end up. We could have been in a palace, a hollow tree or left miserably hanging from a branch!

Since the three families (that’s us, the Ginger Queen and the Sandy Prefab bees – do keep up!) have now been split up and moved around today, and then there was The Happy, Hippy Queen moving last week too, we now have four new houses on the stands at The Hermitage. It’s starting to look like Coronation Street here with back-to-back houses. It looks like another couple of families will be ready to move in the next week or two, so we are going to be even more crowded. I know that not all our princesses will be successful but I really think The General needs to think about moving a few families to new homes, or finding us more space from somewhere. The queen from the Sandy prefab was moved into a half-sized house rather than a full sized single storey and the next few moves should also go into half sized houses so that should help a bit. We are all on the move quite early this year, I think it’s all the dry weather we’ve had recently. Some years we are only starting to think about moving in late May or early June.

The other major job for The General and Doctor this week was to inspect the queen cells in the house the Hippy, Happy Queen moved out of last week. They had drawn up lots of queen cells and The Doctor and General had discussions about which was the best one to keep. They had to be reduced to just one, since this part of the family kept all the flying bees and if more than one princess emerges then the some flyers will take each one out into a cast swarm, which would deplete the family too much to survive. All candidates for good princesses were examined. One nice looking one in a patch of drone brood was rejected – it might be a drone. Two very close together were rejected too, since one might be damaged if the other was removed. One at the bottom of a frame was rejected because it was a bit bent by the bottom bar of the frame. One was rejected because it was too long, the larva might have dropped off the royal jelly. ‘Picky’, do I hear you say? Yes, very ‘picky’, but it is the future of the family that is at stake.

Eventually they decided on a nice medium sized one that was quite gnarly which shows the housemaids have been working it diligently. This was put back into the middle of the box surrounded by brood. The bees will now be left undisturbed with their new princess for about four or five weeks. This will give her time to emerge, be fed and grow strong in the house with the family, then if the weather is good fly out to meet several new husbands. About a week after that she should be ready to start laying and hopefully continue the family.

Well, I think that’s all my news for this week. I think the weather is going to get warmer next week, so watch this space more families might be on the move. Pickfords, who needs Pickfords, when the General and Doctor are here for the house moving?

Keep flying
The Bright Shiner Queen

Friday 8th May 2020 – By The Hippy, Happy Queen

It’s back to me for this episode since my family provided the most excitement this week. That Slim Shady Queen was a bit rude about me last week! Well, all I can say is she knows nothing and you will be able to judge for yourselves if I’m boring.

The Doctor and The General seem to be doing OK. They haven’t caught your human breathing tube virus yet, which is just as well seeing we need our two slaves to provide us with new furniture and new pantries as we fill up the store cupboards. The weather has been lovely this week, hot and sunny, good foraging weather and my girls have been making the most of it. They’ve found a field of yellow peril that isn’t too far away and some are busy bringing that nectar into the pantries. The beautiful fruit trees right next to us are in flower and others are busy there bringing in lovely pale cream coloured pollen and lots of appley nectar. The river always seems to have a good selection at its food bar with wild flowers and many of the trees are in flower too and some of my girls forage there regularly. The horse chestnut is also just starting with that pretty dark red pollen that contrasts so nicely with the creams and yellows in the store cupboards. All in all we are getting a good varied diet and nice weather in which to be able to collect it. The General says it may be much colder next week so we’ll need our stores if we can’t get out as we have a huge number of mouths to feed in my family.

The General seems to have an uncanny knack of knowing who to look at first. This week she decided it was my family that needed to be first and probably just as well. The nice weather has prompted my family to start house hunting, well it’s that time of year and we are outgrowing even our two storey residence. The scouts have been out looking for a suitable new home for me and my young flying bees, meanwhile my housemaids have been starting to grow and feed new princesses so that when I move out the colony here will continue. The Doctor and General came prepared with a small prefab and a spare floor. They opened up our storeys, putting the pantry to one side and put my top storey on the spare floor on the stand next to the bottom storey. This meant that they could each look through a box and get the inspection done as quickly as possible – well, that was the theory.

The second frame in the top box had evidence of my housemaids princess growing, half developed queen cells with royal jelly and a larva in each one. That slick, well-oiled machine that is General and Doctor practising swarm control clicked into action. The frame with the queen cells was marked with chalk, frames with lots of eggs on were also marked with chalk and then the hunt was on for me. Fortunately I was on the fourth frame in the top storey, obligingly in full view and immediately placed into the small prefab on my frame to keep me safe. Then came a complete restructure of what was my beautiful two storey home. As I had 10 frames of young spread over both storeys, they decided to split our two storeys into two separate bungalows with me in one and my prospective princesses in the other. So it all took a bit longer than was expected.

My new home was prepared carefully with three frames of older brood that is almost ready to emerge. This means that very soon I will have new housemaids to tend to my babies and the older girls can get out and forage. The doctor ensured that no queen cells had been sneaked in by mistake. Then I was given some frames of nicely drawn out furniture with space for me to lay and some for my girls to build on, a couple of frames of honey and pollen and a good covering of sisters to keep my babies warm. I was then moved up to the 2nd row, which I seem to remember is where I was last spring until I was moved down here. I was given a new roof and that’s my new home done. I know that some of the flyers that were in my bungalow will go back to the old one on the bottom row, but that’s OK I’m quite happy with my new place and a small family to start building with again. To be honest I’m quite happy not to have to bother with the slimming and extra exercise that flying off to find a new home involves and even then I’d not be sure where we’d end up.

As for the other part of my family that has been left behind on the bottom row, they have 7 frames with the queen cells containing the prospective princesses and lots of eggs so they can build as many practise princesses as they like. They have also kept the pantry as this part of my family has all the flyers and will need the storage space.

The General and The Doctor will come back in 6 or 7 days and keep the most promising queen cell. They will carefully brush bees off all the frames so that no potential princesses are damaged and then reduce to the best looking one. Why 6 or 7 days I hear you ask? Well if you think about it a new queen is an egg for 3 days, capped after 8 and emerges on day 16, so an open cell with a baby in is between 4 and 7/8 days old. The housemaids can use a larva that is up to 3 days old to try and make a princess from, so after 6 days (egg for 3 days, larva for 3) there should be no new queen cells being built and the open cells that were seen on inspection will not have emerged by day 14 if the colony is left 7 days. Before 6 days the colony may build more queen cells and after 7 there is a risk of the princesses starting to emerge and having several cast swarms. As always timings with the sisters can vary a little, sometimes new princesses have been known to emerge on day 15 or even day 17, so 6-7 days is the optimal time for re-inspection. I know that my new princess will be in good hands as both The Doctor and The General have been doing this stuff for a while now. Let’s just hope for a successful emergence and nice mating weather for my new princess. Long live the Hippy, Happy bees!

Oh, do you want to hear about the other families too? Well no-one else was ready to move house just yet. That Slim Shady Queen is busy laying up her half box, she seems to prefer that one to her main room and no, she hasn’t got through the new puzzle gate but whether that’s because she can’t or whether she has lots of space in her new room and hasn’t tried yet no-one knows.

The family in the sandy prefab are growing fast and have been given two storeys but it looks pretty much like the house that Jack built with their second storey being wood and a slightly different size on the outside and even weirder because it’s stuck between a prefab lower storey and two prefab pantries on top. The Banker has been asked for funds for a new prefab 2nd storey and also some other bits and pieces to tidy it all up so it looks a proper job. This Queen is a cousin of mine and quite frankly deserves better than this and also it just lets down the whole image of The Hermitage Sisterhood. I hope your plague doesn’t hold up delivery of more suitable accommodation for them.

The Bright Shiners and The Ginger Queen are both going well in their respective two storey homes but not yet ready to move out as they still have plenty of space. The ‘Unlucky Thirteens’ (The General says I have to stop calling them this!) are doing really well and The General added another pantry. All the mid size families are growing nice and steadily and even the two tiny families are starting to grow. The Cherryburn Queen seems to have kicked into laying gear and they now have 4 frames of good brood and her sisters have obviously decided that she’s a going concern. Similarly Hive 11 now has 3 frames of good brood and are growing steadily. The Doctor gives them a frame of food from time to time to make sure they are well provisioned.

Well I think that’s all from me in my new single storey residence up on the second row. I quiet like the view from up here; it’s a bit sunnier up here too. We hope you are all enjoying being locked up, if the weather predictions are correct we may be locked up this week too, but no worries we all have pretty full pantries to see us through, spring cleaning and house move planning will no doubt be going on in some of our bigger families. Ah bliss, I’ll just get my slippers on, I’m so glad that I don’t have to worry about moving out now. Flying? Not sure I can remember how to do it these days.

Flower power and all that

Your Hippy Happy Queen and her bees

Note from The General and The Doctor
We much prefer the ‘queen removal’ method of swarm control. Removing the Queen from her flying bees is the safest method of ensuring your bees don’t swarm. You do need to make sure you check the queen-less box for queen cells after 6/7 days and reduce them to the best one. We would do this into a nuc if the colony was on single brood but on double brood you can split the boxes and move the queen away.
More details on this technique can be found here.

Sunday 26 April 2020 – The Real Slim Shady

I thought it was time we had a bit of attitude here and a new Queen to bring you up to date. I mean that Hippy, Happy Queen is just too laid back, and boring, and so goody, goody. Yes, I know how perfect a family she leads and quite frankly her sisters, nieces and cousins are just all over The Hermitage so I thought it was time for a new family in the Sisterhood.

I was a Polyhive princess before I set up my own family in 2018 and achieved a red crown. Last year I was moved into a brand new house with all new furniture that we had to upholster so that I could lay my babies, and we did very well with it. My family came through this winter with 4 frames of babies, lots of pollen and a fair amount of food, although we had completely emptied the winter cellar. In the last 2 weeks we have started to fill the pantry again since the weather has been good and there has been plenty of forage for my girls to gather.

I led the General a merry dance this Sunday when she came to inspect us. She looked all through the main room and found we now had 6 frames of babies but she couldn’t find me anywhere, despite looking twice! She knew I was there somewhere as my girls were all well behaved and she could see lots of newly laid eggs, although she wasn’t very impressed with my laying pattern – the cheek of her – I just lay where I feel because I’m that kind of a girl! She’s crafty that one though, she had noticed there were lots of housemaids in the pantry and so decided to look for me there and guess what? There I was with 3 frames of babies, happy as anything, laying up in the middle of the pantry. I have been slipping back and forth through the puzzle gate and laying where I choose. No-one is going to confine me to the main room! I can get through the puzzle gate because I’m a super slim, long-legged, dark model of a Queen, hence my name. Do you think it suits me? The General hates what she calls brood and a half but guess what? That’s just what I have now. I have my main room and what was my pantry is now my extra laying space, then the General put on a different puzzle gate that she hopes will confine me (but we’ll see about that) and then a new pantry on top. I like it, it makes me distinctive. My Bright Shiner sister has 2 storeys in her house so we are both standing up for our family genes and doing well.

Ooh! The General has just reminded me, that you, dear readers, want to know what is happening with the rest of the families at The Hermitage, especially the three that were in a bit of trouble last time. Well you can just wait a bit. Are you enjoying the suspense?

The other ‘Good’ families are all doing well, ticking along nicely, not ready for moving out yet, and as I mentioned before, The Hippy, Happy Queen has the biggest family and is doing very well in her two storeys with 6 frames of babies in the lower storey and 4 in the top storey. She, of course is too fat to get through her puzzle gate. The Ginger Queen and my Bright Shiner sister have just moved into their second storeys and have lots of space. None of us are laying up many boys yet, just a few here and there. The General says that this is what she looks for to give her an indication of when we might be thinking of moving out.

Now for the news you have been waiting for: Last time’s ‘Bad’ families –

Hive 13 was inspected by The Doctor this week and he reported that they are doing very nicely with their new mesh floor, no mouldy bits and 6 frames of babies, lots of space for the queen to lay and getting on with filling their pantry. So this is now a ‘Good’ family.

Hive 11, you will remember this is the family that The General tried to starve but just managed to rescue from imminent death last time. Good news. They are still a small colony but now have 2 frames of babies and the Queen is just moving onto the third and starting to lay that one up too. They have doubled in size from last time so The General is quite relieved. She has left them with just a main room and some candy to supplement what the foragers are bringing in. We are all relieved that they are coming through and will continue to grow.

Now to those ‘Ugly’ Cherryburn bees: Did they murder their Queen? No of course they didn’t! They must have just been jostling her out of the way when their home was opened. They are a small colony too but their green-crowned Queen is still there, although the crown is starting to wear thin. The General and Doctor didn’t dare try to re-apply the crown in case it set off another wave of ‘Queen jostling’ amongst her housemaids. This lot bear watching and they need to pull their socks up if they want to remain part of The Hermitage Sisterhood.

Well that’s it from me for now. I hope you have enjoyed hearing from a new Queen and that you are all enjoying reading about our exploits down at The Hermitage Sisterhood.

Please stand up – I’m the real Slim Shady!

Friday 10 April 2020 – First Inspections – Part 2

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Good heavens you must have thought I’d moved house, it’s been so long since the first part of this episode. However, I blame it squarely on The General, she says she has been too busy to type up my words of wisdom for you all. Doesn’t she know that you are just desperate for the next instalment? She says it’s not as if it’s Killing Eve or something.

She is pleading that she has been busy whilst locked up, processing industrial quantities of wax from her own sisters and trying to unearth a garden from the wilderness outside her back door – apparently two garden paths have emerged so far. Really, I’m not interested in her excuses, so here we go with the actual action from the First Inspection. I hope the title has whetted your appetite. Because many of you don’t have bees or are perhaps last year’s apprentices we have decided to do this in some detail.

All our families went into the winter with a cellar full of honey under their main rooms. The General calls this under-supering although it is apparently called nadiring (which sounds to me like something from the underworld) and have had candy added through the winter as we have needed it, so on this first inspection the plan for all families was to clean our floors and put our main rooms back directly onto the clean floors with a puzzle gate next and then the pantry put back over our heads. To do this the Doctor put down a temporary floor next to the family to be inspected, then together they moved the family off their old floor onto the temporary one. The Doctor then inspected the old floor and gave it a quick clean and blast with the flame thrower before replacing it in its original position. The main room was then put back on the clean floor and we were given a thorough health check. One went through the main room and the other went through the pantry just to make sure us Queens hadn’t been sneaky and laid in there. In all cases I’m pleased to say we had only laid our babies in the main rooms. Once we had been given a clean bill of health then we decided what sort of new rooms and furniture were to be added to keep us safe and happy for at least 2 weeks until The General and Doctor can get back to us. Most of our pantries were pretty empty after the winter but we have all been putting our newly foraged pollen and nectar around our babies to make it easier for the housemaids to feed them all efficiently. Obviously we are only guessing at whether the weather will be good enough for us to forage, so time will tell if the decisions were correct or not.

The Good
My family is in Hive 2 and I am pleased to say that we have 7 frames of young in all stages, good stores and pollen. The Doctor admired how dark I am and they could see that we have survived the winter well as my red crown is still in evidence and my family is doing well. We decided that I should have a second storey in which to put my babies. A puzzle gate was put on above that and then the pantry put back. By the way the new second storeys have some furniture ready for me to lay in and some part made for my housemaids to finish off.

Next door to me is The Ginger Queen in Hive 10, her family occupies the green prefab and although a few weeks ago I was concerned that they may be small, they are also doing well with 6 frames of young and good stores and pollen. She looks very different to me as she is quite ginger and has a green crown. The Doctor prefers my dark looks but the General says there’s nothing wrong with ginger! This family was also given a second storey, then a puzzle gate and the pantry put back.

The Bright Shiners in Hive 9 were the third family to be given an extra storey. They had 5 frames of young but they were well filled and there were lots of bees. The Bright Shiner Queen has a red crown.

The family in the sandy prefab at Hive 15 were also doing well and were given an extra pantry as they had 5 frames of young but these were not so well filled as the Bright Shiners and not so many bees. This Queen has a green crown

These 4 are our strongest families.

We then have 5 colonies with 3 to 4 frames of young with moderate stores but judged by the Doctor and The General to be doing just fine and dandy and about right for this time of year. These families had their main rooms put back over clean floors then a puzzle gate and the pantry replaced. We judged that they didn’t need any further rooms put on just yet.

Please remember 10th April is very early for a first inspection and some years we don’t even get looked at until May. Many of you at home will be thinking that this is about the right size for your own families at this stage of the year. You might be panicking that some of us have 7 frames of young already and wondering why your families aren’t as strong. Remember too that we live in a very sheltered spot down by the river and if we come through the winter strongly then we get a head start down here.

The Bad
Oh dear, how to say this without incriminating The General? But I won’t mind her feelings, the truth has to be told. She has broad shoulders (and short legs). The first case isn’t so bad and it involves my neighbours along the row in Hive 13 – I told her not to use that number, bees never seem to do well in Hive 13. She overwintered them on a solid floor, not our usual mesh floors – and on the bottom row too, definitely a mistake – if only she’d asked my advice. When The General and Doctor moved the rooms off the floor they could see it was quite mouldy at one side and the outside two frames of furniture were a bit mouldy too. However it was quickly rectified by finding a new, clean mesh floor, removing the mouldy furniture and replacing it with nice fresh stuff. Sorted in a trice! This family had 3 frames of young and although they were quite a small colony they looked none the worse for spending the winter in damp accommodation.

Now for the Really, Really Bad: It involves Hive 11, they were a lovely family with a red crowned Queen, one of my cousins in fact. They were coming through the winter nicely when the General decided they needed more candy. She uses the big packs and cuts a hole in the plastic so the housemaids can access it. Well on this occasion she either didn’t cut a big enough hole or missed the place to put it (probably too many gins – or still shivering after returning from her winter down under in the warmth) anyway the upshot was the sisters couldn’t reach their candy and some of them starved. Just BAD BEEKEEPING I say. When The General and Doctor lifted the rooms off the floor there were lots of dead bees and they both were dismayed to see this. When they inspected the rooms there was not a scrap of food to be seen anywhere and some girls had their heads right to the bottoms of the cells licking the last crumbs. Miraculously they were just in time, my cousin was still alive and even laying a few babies, with some of her housemaids tending to her and the babies and managing on the meagre food the few foragers were finding. The Doctor quickly fetched a new floor from the shed and her home was made tidy. The empty pantry was removed and a full pack of candy put on by The Doctor, just to make sure! They are now a very small colony but hopefully they will survive. And now for the final family:

The Ugly
The Cherryburn family have always been a bit strange, not always the friendliest and always the first family to move out come swarming time, sometimes twice. I know that The General has thought a few times about whether they are best suited to be a part of The Hermitage Sisterhood. This time they may have sealed their own fate! The General and Doctor were doing their examination, it is a small colony with only a few frames with sisters on and when The General lifted one frame, carefully as she always does, the housemaids started to surround their green crowned queen and jostle her about. The Doctor was quick with the chimney and gave them a good smoking to disperse the housemaids and hopefully disguise the scent of the queen a little. On further examination there was plenty of stores but only a few small patches of young over 2 frames, maybe this was why the bees were so agitated with their Queen as she is perhaps failing. Whatever the reason I cannot condone regicide. The General and The Doctor decided that there was nothing to be done for this family just now except wait and see so they shut it up and will look again in two weeks.

There you have it The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. More from us soon.

Flower power and all that.

Your Hippy Happy Queen and her bees

Friday 10th April 2020First Inspections – Part 1 – A New Strategy

A Happy Easter to all our Readers from the Hippy, Happy Queen

A very good day to you all.

Hasn’t the weather been much better these last few days?  My girls have so enjoyed getting out and foraging in the sunshine.  Lots of the spring river plants have burst into flower and are providing us with some lovely natural sustenance, although my scouts are reporting that there doesn’t seem to be much of the Yellow Peril around us this year.  Last year we had a positive carpet of the stuff for miles in every direction, with unlimited and easy feeding opportunities for my girls.  However, we are making do with a lovely varied diet, including dandelions, daisies, blackthorn, celandines and some early fruit trees too.  We are just waiting for the orchard next door to burst into life, there are a few early blossoms there but soon it will be covered in beautiful flowers for us.  They will be equally pleased to see us as they need us as much as we need them.

Unsurprisingly, given the lovely weather, The General and The Doctor have escaped from being locked up and arrived today for what turned out to be a marathon session with us.  They even brought their lunch with them.   We are concerned that your situation seems to be quite serious with lots of you locked up (you must have been very naughty) and not allowed out.  It seem though that we are essential – I always knew we were the most important  beings on the planet and have always planned to be immortal – so The General and The Doctor are allowed special dispensation to see to our needs.  It does mean that there may have to be some changes in our management though.  The General had an audience with me today and we discussed at some length what plans we were going to put in place to deal with the situation. Obviously there are to be no mass meetings and no apprentices visiting us, but our care and welfare is essential.  Therefore it will only be The General and The Doctor visiting us, as they are from the same family, although we have had special permission for The Under Gardener or The Groundsman to come and cut the grass from time to time. 

In the spirit of your lock up, which means no unnecessary journeys and keeping away from other people, together we have come up with the following strategy.  The General and The Doctor will visit as little as possible and to facilitate this we will be given plenty of new, main room and pantry space so we don’t outgrow our homes and think about moving on.  I rather like this idea since we’ll have lovely new space with new furniture and we can just get on with what we do best, raising babies and storing food.  When they come to visit us they will be here a long time and get all the jobs done in one go and they’ll definitely need their picnic with them since we are currently 12 families here.  It will be a lot of work for the poor souls, but since they are locked up for the rest of the time they should quite enjoy it.  What could be better than spending several hours in our company on a lovely day?

The General is also rueing the fact that she didn’t organise an apiary clean and tidy in the Autumn (she said the weather wasn’t good enough) so now she is going to have to do it herself (although I noticed it was The Doctor who cleaned all the puzzle gates while she faffed around checking how many boxes of new furniture were in the shed). 

Their first job today was to sort out and clean 12 puzzle gates, which are evil grids designed to keep me out of the pantries. Although since my housemaids serve my food to me directly I guess I don’t really need to be in there, although one does like to inspect one’s premises from time to time, doesn’t one – do you like the royal tone? Once The Doctor was on with those, The General ransacked the shed rooting out new rooms for us and assembling the furniture, some of which she had made that morning, she does love us!  Then it was getting on lighting the chimney, making sure all the tools were clean, getting the PPE on (that’s a new term I’ve just learned from her, apparently it’s the new buzzword from your infestation) and then deciding who to look at first….

Well, I think I might leave it there for now as I really need to go and lay up some new frames and my housemaids are chivvying me along to this important work.  I’ll finish my report on our First Inspection in the next instalment in a few days time.  Sufficient to say that my family and I are in tip top health and have come through the winter as the biggest and obviously most important family at The Hermitage.

Flower power and all that

Your Hippy Happy Queen and her bees

Sunday 22nd March 2020 – From the new Hippy Happy Queen

Well folks it’s been a long time since you heard from us. Almost two years in fact – my mother, the blue Hippy Happy Queen, did tell me that The General was inclined to slack if she wasn’t kept up to the job. So today I collared her when she visited with the Doctor and told her we should really let people know what’s going on down here. Most of the Queens that used to blog have now been superseded by us younger generation, but we are still as interesting as before and are keen to keep you up to date with the Sisterhood. So here we go!

The General did quite a bit of shuffling around last Autumn, moving families in together to help us keep warm for the winter. Then in the middle of December, The Doctor, Trog and The General came and dosed us with some medicine, nasty, even if it was disguised in sugar solution. It was to kill the pesky mites they said. At the same time they gave us all a nice lot of candy to help keep us fed through the winter – and we thought it was our Christmas present but maybe it was just to take away the taste of the medicine! Anyway, The Doctor and The General have been down to see us few times since then, topping up candy where it has been needed.

The General has been off for her usual jaunt to warmer climes and even spoke about us to beekeepers down under. She says she will give a talk on beekeeping down under in the autumn. She said those southern folk were impressed by our survival skills, and shocked when she showed them photos of bee hives in the snow.

Today the sun was out but the air was quite cold, so for the first time we could show The General how well we all were after the winter and impress her with our pollen collection. All 12 branches of the Sisterhood are still going, some are stronger than others and we are one of the strongest. The new Ginger Queen next door seems to have a small family, but hopefully they will grow when the weather improves. They should be warm enough because the have had the new blue and yellow prefab since last summer.

The General and Doctor had a bit of a discussion about whether they should remove the mouseguards but decided on balance to leave them for another few days and see what the weather is going to do. It has been a long old winter this time, although not too cold but certainly wet for the last couple of months. The General, as usual, has decided that it is probably too cold just now to open our houses to see how we all are. She usually waits until April for the longer days. At the moment it’s still cold in the late afternoon and she doesn’t want us disrupted and chilled. It looks like she is going to have time on her hands for a while, which makes a difference as she is usually rushing from one thing to the next like a demented hamster.

She has been telling us that we might not see many apprentices or indeed anyone else for the summer as many of you have a human virus that attacks your breathing tubes and you are all in quarantine and have to stay inside. Although, apparently, you are allowed to look after your livestock. I’m not sure I like me and my sisters being described as livestock – it makes us sound like cows. I’m glad we don’t have to stay 2 metres apart – we’d stretch from Wylam to Newcastle and back.

I’ll update you all next time I manage a chat with The General, that might be the first time she comes to inspect our houses.

Flower power and all that.

Your Hippy Happy Queen and her bees