Finally! It was just warm enough (on a day when I wasn’t working) to have a peek inside the hive. Four of us gathered to see what we could see. I’m coming around to the idea of, or perhaps rather gaining confidence in, opening the hive less often.
However, although the bees have seemed quite happy when observing them at the entrance and there has been a veritable roar of buzzing from inside whenever I’ve been to say hello I wanted to check inside to get a better idea of stores, brood and disease.
A warm March gave rise to a quick increase in bee numbers, but following that a month or more of mostly cold and wet weather has trapped them inside the hive. So, although it may look as though there is lots of yummy forage out there for them they haven’t been able to access it. I have had to feed sugar syrup several times and even so there is very little in the way of stores in the hive. But they aren’t starving and I shall continue to feed them.
These bees are housed on a ‘brood and a half’, in a National Hive, so the Queen has access to a normal sized brood box and also a half depth one (usually for storing honey). They have filled these two boxes nearly full of brood and have started on another for food stores. I’m not sure I have ever seen so many bees in one place before.
There was no sign of disease, so now we need to decide whether to attempt an artificial swarm (a way of splitting the colony that hopefully means they don’t swarm naturally) or not. If they can build their stores up I’m sure they’ll swarm as the weather improves. Normally I would be happy for healthy bees to swarm, but we could do with replenishing our hives and these seem to be particularly resilient bees. So, as uncomfortable as I am with it we may attempt such a procedure.
I am particularly attached to these bees, even though they are rather feisty, even though I have had to run for it before now and even though I have had a swollen, red, itchy leg for three days (full length bee suit definitely on the cards) due to their great defensive capabilities. I’m happy, content, to see them thriving in these difficult conditions.