Confessions of a novice beekeeper – Part 6, The chimney..

With the successful relocation of the four NUC frames into the brood box, it was now time to sit back and bask in the engineering glory that was my bee chimney.

If you recall from earlier posts, I’d preempted bee flight path concerns by designing and installing a 2.5m chimney to the front of my hive entrance. Now, I just had to ensure the little buggers used it.

Sitting back on the deck, approx. 5m away, we got the binoculars (binos) out and watched the chimney intently. Approximately 30mins passed and so far we’d only seen a couple of bees, laboriously and eventually find their way up and out of the top of the chimney.

Another hour passed. By this point, the binos were literally a natural extension of my eyeballs as they’d not left my face. However, we’d still only seen a couple more bees struggle up and out, and no confirmed sightings of bees returning to the hive via the chimney. In fact, by now there was a growing congregation of bees sitting on the outside of the hive, near where the hive entrance would normally be, remembering that the entrance was now concealed in my chimney contraption. Additionally, there was a slowly increasing number of bees, flying frustrated circles around the hive, trying to find the way in.

Stupid buggers. Don’t they know how beautifully elegant my chimney solution is?

Apparently not. It was now approaching relocation event plus 2hrs. I was seriously starting to get worried as it was a pretty cool day and we were approaching late afternoon. I was concerned that if the outside bees didn’t make it back inside the hive, that they’d die of exposure overnight. Additionally, with the reduced numbers of bees in the hive, there was no guarantee that they’d be strong enough to maintain themselves either.

In a last-ditch attempt to get things working, I first tried removing the chimney side door. But all that did was allow the bees to use the new side entrance, whilst they still ignored the chimney. Nup, that didn’t work.

Then I got radical. I hung a small tray down inside the chimney, laden with honey, about 60cms from the top. My theory was; the bees would smell and seek out the honey and then whilst enjoying it, they’d have an epiphany about my chimney theory and suddenly understand what it was about and begin using it.

Unfortunately, all it did was allow 3 bees to find, and then get seriously bogged (stuck) in the honey.

Shit, shit, bugger, shit…..

Jules counseled patience but by now I was getting frantic. I didn’t want my brand new bee colony to fail on their 1st night in the hive.

Screw it. I relented, donning my suit and unbolting the chimney from the hive entrance. I then re-positioned the hive so that the entrance, at the rear of the hive, was angled into the corner of the shed and garden walls.

Almost instantly the bees were happier. You could literally hear them relax and we’ve since observed they emit very different sounds when calm versus agitated.

With the outside bees now reuniting with their inside buddies, my blood pressure started dropping and we observed them going about their happy, buzzy business. Although early days at this point, we noted most bees were exiting to the left side of the hive, when looking at it from the front, and then doing a loop and shooting either up and over the shed roof, or across the grass and above the house, over the girl’s bedrooms.

Another advantage a lack of chimney presented was that we could now sit on our garden wall to the left of the hive and observe them coming and going, doing their thing.

Since then, I reckon Jules and I probably spend at least 10mins each day, just sitting and observing them as they go about their business. Sometimes we see them return to the hive so burdened by pollen that they can barely walk. And we giggle as they waddle themselves back into the hive.

Busy bees returning with pollen
Busy bees returning with pollen
In flight with shadow! Also, note the bee middle right, facing us is a male drone bee which you can tell by the larger eyes and larger body.
More pollen

With me and the bees happy, we now need to sit back and let them do their thing. Hopefully expanding the colony and building out the other six wax foundation frames in the brood box. When they’ve done this we can add on the Super box and Flow Frames and hopefully start harvesting honey, but that’s another story.

Bee good and stay buzzy!

P.S. I’ve since uninstalled the chimney from the shed wall altogether. The bees are happy and so far, a couple of days later, we’ve not had any incidents with angry bees chasing or stinging us.

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