Its a particularly cold introduction to spring, with frequent snowy spells. Not the start the Bees would want with brood to feed. The temperature has rarely risen above 6ºc with less than a hand full of sunny days. On one such day, the Sun shone and we reached the dizzy heights of 10ºc. The bees reaction was tremendous and reassuring with a heightened sense of urgency to forage. To watch their return with loads of pollen brought out the pollen guide to see what they had found. Willow, Alder, Crocus and possibly Gorse.
As the month progressed, I was becoming increasingly concerned with the lack of forage days. The hives are getting lighter, so action was needed. It was too cold for syrup and I didn’t want to put fondant on. I had several supers which were half full of honey, right or wrong I decided this was the best option, quick and easy. Queen excluder on, followed by the super….sorted. My theory is the the bees are mobile in the hive and not in tight cluster as the outside temperature is just below what they could survive on forage flights. If they need the food, they will use it, if not its doing no harm.
Easter soon, lets hope the weather improves so we can all get outside for some fresh air.
Easter came and went, and the weather remains very chilly. Not the weather for foraging, however we did get the odd couple of days when the Sun shone and the bees made good use of these precious times, a lot of pollen going in the hive, reassuring if nothing else.
Towards the end of the month I was able to undertake the first full inspection of the year. I have to say I was definitely a bit shaky, probably the nerves. I think I can only compare it to the first time I spoke to an audience, you want to look calm, confident and in control but you are in bits inside.
All went well, saw two of the queens, good brood patterns, but I still can’t see eggs. They are there, I just can’t see them…even with my glasses on!
I did buy another hive, flat pack, because I felt that I did not have enough spare equipment to deal with swarm control. I had been reading through the methods of swarm control, over and over again………so I thought I would prepare for the worst case scenario, all hive needing attention at the same time.
A glimmer of spring, dry, slightly warmer, longer days with an explosion of blossom. heightened activity from the hives and I am now seeing a significant increase in the number of bees, stored pollen and honey is on the up.
We had planned to go away in the middle of the month, so the last inspection was the day before we went. A lot of drones had hatched and queen cups were appearing everywhere. I went through and removed every queen cup, I know its a bit mean, and they will only build more, but I needed some time when we got back just in case the weather was poor and I could not do the inspections.
The weather had been particularly poor while we were away so the bees had probably not been out much……gives them time to plan! On inspection of the first hive I found an occupied queen cell so I marked the frame with a pin and carried on with the inspection. Its funny, well not really, when you need to find the queen what happens? She suddenly plays ‘hide and seek’ and she is going to win.
I gave up and put the hive back together, I had some time to gather my thoughts on a plan of action. Next day I returned and reinspected the brood box, no sign of her, but they definitely had not swarmed, this was becoming a big colony. I followed the process of swarm control using a new brood box on the old floor and cleared the bees from the old into the new, she will be in there somewhere, hopefully. I replaced to old brood box, empty of bees on top of the supers and closed it up. Next day I returned and removed the old brood box (now full of bees) off the top and placed it on a new floor, 90° to the original hive. Put a feeder on top because I know there was little food in the brood box and closed both up….boy were they angry with me……!
Its approaching the bank holiday, and in true British style the weather falls apart, 8°c and blowing a gale. We are heading for the coldest spring since 1979…I’m sure it snowed in June that year!!
June & July
I must admit that as I write this the summer has been some what of a blur with all of the activity in the Apiary. It seems the more you become involved in the day to day activities of a colony of bees the less you understand the mechanics within the hive. I am sure I will emerge from the mist one day and start to believe I have started to understand and more importantly anticipate their next move. I have read the books, even stood there looking into an open hive…..with the book and thought ‘no its not that, maybe that, no….well what the heck are they doing’ you just want to tell them to stick to the rules and read the manual!!.
Rant over….. As the months progressed, the temperature rose and summer arrived with frantic flights to the fields of Oil Seed Rape, which this year seem to be in flower for a much longer period, lots more set Honey… so need to get it off the hives quickly. One particular Hive has been building very rapidly and now shows signs of swarming, but I found not evidence of queen cells on the last inspection. It was a Saturday morning, 10.30am, not a very warm day and quite breezy. there was a humming noise from the corner of the plot and an increasing cloud of bees were swirling over the hives. To my amazement all went quiet, they had all settled on the hive body, must be too cold. I donned my suit and surveyed the scene. This was a big swarm I did not want to lose. I collected my cardboard box and moved in. There was clump of bees just under the entrance board, so I assumed the Queen may be in there. I gently scraped them into the box and quickly cleared as many bees as possible from the hive body into the box. I put the box down and moved away…lets see what happens. gradually they gathered themselves in the box. I set up a base and two brood boxes with frames in the top one, tipped the bees into the bottom box and put the framed box on top and closed the lid. My theory was that they would move up into the top box. A week later all seemed fine, so I opened the hive, they had drawn comb in the top box and were merrily filling the bottom box….stand back and think. I lifted the top box and scraped off the extra comb, moved the bottom box out of the way and placed the top box down on the base, shook all the bees off the comb and closed the hive.
During the next three weeks I ended up with three hives with Virgin queens and the weather is quite blustery which is a concern, weeks pass and on inspection all I see is empty brood. A sense of doom is looming in my mind, but patience and positive thinking wins through and seeing lots of pollen entering is reassuring. All is well.