I have been dreaming of honey ever since we got the bees earlier this year. I have diligently checked the hive each week, added a super to allow honey collection and seen the wax cells fill with nectar then capped. Then something strange happened, I have never been very good at spotting the queen but she was marked so it should have been easy. She had vanished, the bees had not swarmed and there were no queen cells indicating that the bees knew she was ailing or missing and had started to feed up a larvae on Royal Jelly to turn it into a replacement queen. Honey production slowed and the number of bees seemed to be reducing each week. So what to do?
I called my mentor who came out and looked through the hive. He confirmed the queen had gone and there we no obvious successors being produced. There were no more eggs or larvae so the first thing to try was to take some frames of eggs and (brood) larvae from another hive, put them in the middle of my hive brood box and let the bees get on with creating a new queen. A few weeks later an emergency queen cell was spotted, and after 5 weeks brood and eggs are present- proving a new queen is in residence and has successfully mated and returned to the hive to start laying. No more honey for this year as the hive will need to build up numbers in time for the winter and will need all the food it can get.
I was able to extract about 5 lbs (about 2.2kg) of honey which will all be for the family. It was mostly Oil Seed Rape honey which crystallised very quickly and was hard to extract. Still it takes very good and is a start, I hope to build up the number of hives and get a bit more honey next year.