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A couple of weeks ago, we checked the hive and all seemed well. We found the queen, the bees were busy and on opening the hive there was the seductive scent of honey. The colony had spent weeks drawing out the honeycomb on the hive frames, and seemed to be just beginning to lay a good pattern of brood (young).

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Spot the queen

There were a few ants that seemed to be making a nuisance of themselves. The bees would try to expel them from the hive, while the ants would cling on to their legs and wings pulling them off-balance. After a little research, we thought we’d apply cinnamon, a widely recommended treatment for ant problems. The bees were irritated by it, and the ants unmoved. Next, we constructed a hive stand with the intention of putting the legs in tins of oil as a physical barrier for the ants, but unfortunately for us, it was too late.

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Ants move in on the honeycomb and abandoned brood.

When we checked the hive today, all was quiet. There was a steady stream of ants picking off the last bits of pollen and feeding on the abandoned brood. The bees had moved on. We’d always considered putting a hive on the block as a bit of a gamble. While we hoped that plantings in adjacent properties and an abundance of flowering weeds would provide enough forage, we were always nervous about how the persistent, often strong, winds might impact a colony’s ability to roam to find pollen sources. They were a young colony, and perhaps combined with the attentions of the ants and the recent searing weather (the wax foundation on the frames showed signs of melting), our site was just a little too hostile.

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Flowering weeds, and saddle-bags full of pollen

It’s a disappointment, but if they’ve swarmed, I have faith that Honeybee Democracy (see video below) will ensure that they’ve found a more suitable location. It’s an important reminder of the necessity of the ‘Trees’-part of Trees, Bees and Cheese, for shelter, habitat and food. This winter we’ll be planting intensively around the Bee House and surrounds, so perhaps in a few years we’ll be able to bring the hives back.

In the meantime, we’ll repopulate the hive in a more hospitable off-farm location and continue to hone our bee-keeping skills, and The Bee House will be available to humans as the best picnic spot on the western Fleurieu.

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