Sunshine and Bees: there will be a summer after all…

With the advent of warmer weather came our chance to open the hives. We wanted to assess what state the colonies were in and get them ready for spring. Seven of us met at the Barsham Apiary and after a chat whilst getting suited up – with the 2 boys in the group desperate to get on and use the smoker – we entered a cloud of buzzing bees. They were quite active but not as cross as we thought they may be (bearing in mind one of these colonies is the only one we have had to run from previously).

These 2 hives were both wintered as a brood and a half (a brood and a super), with no queen excluder on. We wanted to find the Queen, make sure she was in the bottom box and pop a queen excluder on. Unfortunately although there were plenty of eggs and brood we didn’t find the Queen in the first hive, so shook the bees from the super into the brood. Also unfortunately I got a little carried away with the force of the shake and scattered several bees onto the floor. It remains to be seen whether or not I have lost the Queen.

We found the Queen in the ‘Superhive’ (well done Mike) but whilst keeping a most diligent eye on her and turning the frame carefully I managed to lose her. I am REALLY hoping she dropped into the brood box. She is a fabulous and beautiful Queen, losing her would be devastating. Especially as she is our most likely candidate for increasing our bee stocks.

Hives sorted and Queens hopefully not disposed of we gathered our stuff and repaired to the cars for a quick sticky guzzle of some very tasty honey – just a little – before giving the frame back to the bees.

Flixton Apiary was more of a mixed bag, the nuc box colony was absolutely bursting at the seams and ready to move into a brood box, which we managed relatively easily. However, the hive containing ‘old bluey’ (one of our nuc queens from last year) was once again looking to be in trouble. There were no eggs present and a very large Queen cell, hopefully she will hatch and take the colony forward. The last colony initially looked to have some kind of bizarre brood disease, but it wasn’t foul brood or sac brood – or any other kind of ‘brood’ that I could find out about. The contents of the cells were white and granular and after confirmation from one more intrepid among us that it tasted sweet, we are now working on the assumption that it may be crystallised ivy honey.

So, time and the next inspection will determine whether or not I lost 2 Queens, whether the failing hive will regenerate with a new Queen and if we have combated Varroa in the last hive. I’m happy to report I didn’t get stung on this occasion, although a couple of others did!