A Pictorial Bee Update

On Wednesday, the weather finally cooperated enough that we could have a look in the hives.

Since we requeened Buzzers’ Roost, we welcomed the opportunity to see if the new royal had been released from her cage. She had, so we quickly closed up and left them to get better acquainted without interference and turned to FreeBees.

Happily, we not only spotted the queen, we also saw eggs. Since we’d seen fresh larvae on both previous checks, we knew the queen was there and laying (laying very well, in fact), but it was nice to see her and to finally have enough sunlight to see the tiny eggs.

The bees have also created a few more queen cups. I’ve circled one in the picture below.

Can you find one in this photo? Hint:It’s near the middle top. We also saw some Small Hive Beetles and larvae. Sigh.

At least there appeared to be fewer than in early spring.

I went to hear someone talk about controlling this pest, and she said worker bees will actually feed the beetles. Double sigh.

And yet, FreeBees seem to be thriving, filling up both boxes with pollen, nectar, and bees.

Our next step for them is to do a split. This will be what’s known as a “walk away split,” which leaves them to raise their own queen – a totally new experience for us, and I’ll explain more when we do it.

Meanwhile, I thought you might enjoy a look at this young bee. See how furry she is, even around her eyes? She followed me into the house and didn’t seem in any hurry to leave. In the process of getting her photo, quite by accident, I discovered how to make the photo sequence into a loop, so that follows. It’s very much like watching a bee crawl around on you.

And here’s a photo of the pollen the girls are lugging in this week.

And lastly, here they are looking out as if to ask if the rain has really stopped.

Sadly, the answer was no, but I know this hive (FreeBees) consistently will have foragers out as soon as it does.

The Two John Swanns — A Cautionary Tale and Reflection on Naming Traditions

This much we know for sure:

  • On April 21, 1850, Edward Voce (The Engineer’s nan’s 2x great grandfather) married a woman named Sarah Ann Swann at St. Margaret’s in Leicester.
  • Both fathers’ names are listed on the wedding, as well as their occupations. (I love it when they include that kind of information, although it would be even better if it were completely legible.) Both men are named John. John Voce is a farmer, and John Swann is a globe hand? Well, that’s what it looks like to me. Also, the Swann name is so poorly written, it was transcribed as “Swain.” However, if you look closely at the “n” in spinster, it looks very much like the ones in “Swann.”
  • Edward and Sarah Ann are listed as being 23, meaning they were both born around 1827. She lived at Woodboy Street, he at Wilton Street.
  • The marriage is witnessed by John and Louisa Swann.


Now we can find out more about Sarah Ann. Using findmypast.co.uk, I located the 1841 census record for what appears to be her family, living at Bridge End, St. Margaret’s parish, Leicester. They are listed as John (35, frame worker), Charlotte (30), Sarah Ann (14), John (13), Louisa (9), Edward (7), James (5), Thomas (3), Charlotte (4 mos.), John Showell (30, frame worker), Ann Showell (60), and Mary Hilton (45). This ticks all the boxes. Not only is Sarah listed, she’s listed as “Sarah Ann,” consistent with her marriage record. Louisa is nine, which means nine years later, when Sarah is married, she’s just the right age to serve as witness along with her father. The family lives in the same parish Sarah Ann was married from. We don’t know who Ann and John Showell are, nor Mary Hilton, but they reside in the same household. GBC_1841_0604_0431
To climb the family tree a little further, we need to find out more about John and Charlotte Swann. We know they live in Leicester, but can’t be sure that’s where they are from because the 1841 census doesn’t give that information. Still, we know their approximate birth year, and that gives us a start.

Here’s where it starts to get a little weird. The 1851 census lists a John and Charlotte Swann in Leicester, but they live in a different part of Leicester, with different children. Google maps says Barrowden (their home) is only about 20 miles from Bridge End, Leicester, so this is possible. But Charlotte’s age is different. She’s shown as 48, rather than 40 as she should be from a census taken ten years later. And the children are Fanny, Elizabeth, and Henry, rather than the ones from the previous census. Surely at least Charlotte and Thomas would still be at home at ages 10 and 13, possibly even James at 15 and Edward at 17. So, this is probably not them, even though this John Swann is the right age. Screen Shot 2019-04-28 at 6.56.44 PM
For a while, I had no luck finding an 1851 census for our John and Charlotte at all. But while writing this post, I broadened the age group for John a little further and played with the name a little more.
Voila! Here they are at Woodboy Street with their many children and Rebecca Wheatley, who is listed as “mother” and “widow.”
From this, we can find their marriage record, which, alas, does not contain the wealth of information Sarah Ann and Edward’s does. Screen Shot 2019-04-28 at 7.17.57 PMWe can also find the baptismal record for Charlotte, which names her mother Rebecca and gives us her father’s name, Thomas. Unusually for a baptism record, it also gives her birth date. S2_GBPRS_LEICS_102228429_00118And the 1861 census shows Charlotte listed as “wife” and “married,” with no John in sight, but five of her children.

From there, the trail goes cold for both John and Charlotte, leading me to surmise John died sometime between 1851 and 1861, and Charlotte followed sometime before 1871. I believe this because in 1871, Samuel is living with his older brother.

This family tree was actually fairly easy to figure out once I began looking at it more logically, i.e. realizing that children don’t usually appear and then disappear and others take their places within a ten year period. (I’m not saying it couldn’t happen, but generally such children wouldn’t share the same birth years).

It’s quite likely the two John Swanns were cousins. In fact, I believe there may have been at least one or two more, all living within ten miles of each other. It was just unusual that two were married to Charlottes.

This happens because in England, as in many countries including America, there is a tradition of naming children for their grandparents and other family members, resulting in multiple people of a similar age in a small area being named the same. Complicating this is the fact that when a genealogist first begins research on a person, they often have only a guesstimate as to their age and birth year.

Family Tree Forum provides this information on naming patterns:

English and Welsh Naming Pattern …

First son was named after the father’s father.
Second son was named after the mother’s father.
Third son was named after the father.
Fourth son was named after the father’s oldest brother.
Fifth son was named after the father’s 2nd oldest brother or mother’s oldest brother.

First daughter was named after the mother’s mother.
Second daughter was named after the father’s mother.
Third daughter was named after the mother.
Fourth daughter was named after the mother’s oldest sister.
Fifth daughter is named after the mother’s 2nd oldest sister or father’s oldest sister.

While people didn’t always stick to the pattern, names were often used again and again. Occasionally, this can be helpful, especially if one of the names is unusual like Reuben or Honora, which turned up as “Anora,” her granddaughter Eliza’s middle name.

But don’t even get me started about the number of “John Wards” in Leicestershire between 1700-1800! I’m still figuring that one out!

Of Queen Bees, Beetles, and Pollen

We introduced our new queen to Buzzers’ Roost today. I didn’t remember to take a picture of her and her attendants, but here’s a photo of her cage in the hive. I’m still concerned about Buzzers’. The brood just doesn’t look quite right, and once we see whether or not this queen is accepted, we’ll call our county inspector to ask for an inspection and his opinion.

Meanwhile, the bees in this hive definitely know something is wrong (they’ve lost the queen whose pheromones they know and have an intruder in their midst). They were active, fanning and clustering around the entrance as if to share the news.

They were still bringing in pollen and nectar, not nearly as much as FreeBees, but definitely working.

We opened FreeBees with some trepidation, as well. After creepy-crawling sight of earlier this week, I expected the worst – frames heaving with beetles and larvae (or maybe it would be me heaving, who knew?).

At least we had the consolation or knowing we had traps in place and had treated the surrounding ground with nematodes from Southeastern Insectaries (http://www.southeasterninsectaries.com/nematodes.php). If I didn’t hate hive beetles so much, I’d find nematodes pretty gross, but no more.

Nematodes are microscopic, worm-like creatures that live in soil and parasitize other creatures. Normally, I’m not a fan of parasites, but this particular type of nematode feeds on SHB (Small Hive Beetle) larvae by getting into their gut, turning it to mush, and feeding on it.

Last week, I took a delivery of nematodes, suspended in gel, which I kept in the fridge until The Engineer was around and we could apply them. To do this, you rinse the gel with water and strain the water off, then do it again. The nematodes are left in the water, applied around the hives, and irrigated.

It was raining when The Engineer got home, had been raining on and off for days, possibly weeks – perfect conditions for application of nematodes.

And that’s why we were outside Tuesday evening in the pouring rain, watering the ground around our hive.

Sometimes I think our neighbors must think we’re crazy.

Now, we know nematodes don’t have any effect on adult beetles, and I can’t imagine they’d already have much effect on the larvae, but when we looked in FreeBees today, we saw a total of two beetles and three larvae. And the larvae were dead in a trap.

Go figure.

It was a nice surprise.

What we did see was lots and lots of lovely brood, pollen, and nectar.

Yes, I know I’ve just posted five pictures of the same thing, but isn’t it gorgeous?

If you’re interested in learning what plants the different pollen comes from, there are charts available online here: http://www.wasatchbeekeepers.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/North-Bends-Pollen-Chart.pdf and here: https://www.mybeeline.co/en/p/pollen-identification-color-guide.

The bees have also started production of drone cells, which means they feel secure enough to spare the food for the lazy boys.

We had left a medium frame in because when we last checked, we forgot to take our frames that had drawn comb out of the bee freezer (yes, we do have a freezer just for hive frames). It had honey on it last fall, so we left it in then for extra food.

In the ten days since our last check, they built this.

And the queen, who we didn’t see, had filled it with eggs, now grown to larvae.

Some beekeepers intentionally use medium frames in deep boxes for drone frames. (For more info on why they might do this, go to this post: https://thebyrdandthebees.wordpress.com/2017/08/25/i-just-saw-a-baby-honey-bee-or-one-step-forward-one-step-back/.)

I wish I could claim we thought that far ahead, but I’d be lying.

It is time to get back to our Varroa treatments, or as the real beekeepers call it, “Integrated Pest Management.” So, that’s also on the agenda in the near future. And I expect we’ll be taking a split from FreeBees, both to prevent them swarming and to use as a resource hive.

Will keep you posted on the SHB and Buzzers situation.

One last thing. As we were cleaning up after our inspection, a couple of HUGE bumblebees went zooming by my head and landed on our rhododendron and grape hyacinths. Although the pictures aren’t clear, I’m sharing them anyway.

They were queens, and if I remember I’ll explain the life cycle of bumblebees and yellow jackets, and how they differ from honey bees. For now, all you need to know is, if you have issues with yellow jackets, now is the time to put out traps.