by Cat Jones
I had a check up on the fondant today. It’s been pretty cold so, as expected, there was no sign of any bees flying. The fondant has definitely been eaten, but there is still plenty left so not worth topping up yet.
After missing the first beginners’ session at BABKA for a conference, I braved the snow this evening for the second. It’s been a while since I’ve looked at insect morphology so I was grateful for the refresher. John also went through the timings of development, which will be good to get a grip on now so we can start to plan head for swarming.
In contrast to yesterday’s snowy weather, it’s been sunny and warm today. The bees were out flying, but I didn’t see them bringing back in any pollen- probably just out to relieve themselves! I saw a worker removing another from the hive and, on closer inspection, there were a few dead bees on the ground near the entrance. I am assuming these were old workers removed from the hive while it was warm enough to do so. Again, the bees were feeding on the fondant but there was still plenty left.
We haven’t seen the sun for a while so we’ve not seen much activity from the hive recently. I had a quick check again on the fondant, which is still going down but not worth disturbing them to add more just yet. There were a couple of dead bees on it- I am hoping they were old workers too and didn’t just die from the cold! If they haven’t been removed fairly soon I might fish them out myself as I have a suspicion that they’ll be too stuck in the fondant for the workers to remove them. Our bee feeding on the fondant. There are a few dead ones in there which I’ll remove if the workers don’t manage to.
March was a fairly quiet month, so I decided to tag it onto April’s diary.
I had a quick check of the fondant supplies today. There was still quite a bit left, but there were a dozen or so dead bees in it. From what I’ve learned, bees are pretty house proud and would normally remove the dead bees themselves so I decided to help them out and take out the bits of contaminated fondant.
Today was the first sunny day we’ve had in ages so I watched the bees leaving and entering the hive for a good 10 minutes. I didn’t see any pollen being brought in at first. Unsurprising really, seeing as spring seems to not have bothered showing up yet. However, after a while, a few started to bring some in, which was a bit of a relief because I took this as a good sign that the queen is still around. It’s obviously far too cold at the moment to be doing a hive inspection, but I am getting pretty itchy feet about it! Perhaps bee keeping will force me to become a little more patient!
Andrew and I had a stock take of the spare equipment we have today. We have enough equipment for a spare hive but not enough frames and foundation to fill a new brood box so we decided to head over to Paul Snowden’s workshop to pick up some supplies. He showed us how to put a frame together, which was pretty useful as I am not sure I would have got it right the first time without a template. We also bought a rapid feeder as we’ve been borrowing various feeders from other people up until now. I think we’ll use it in the autumn too, despite being advised to go for something bigger like a contact feeder. I am lucky enough to have the apiary about ten seconds walk from my office so it’s not much of an inconvenience to top up supplies, even on a daily basis, if needed. We tried a large contact feeder in the autumn, but wasted a lot of sugar when the bees ignored it for a while and it started to go off. One of the first things I remember learning about feeding bees is to avoid spilling sugar everywhere to avoid robbing- we found this pretty impossible with a contact feeder! If we end up with hives further away on site then we will probably consider investing in some Ashforth Feeders instead.
I had a quick check on the bees today. They’ve certainly got the hang of taking in the fondant now so it will need topping up soon. The bees had started to draw comb up into out feeder so I removed it using my hive tool.
It was reassuring to see lots of bees bringing back pollen today. This reminded me that I need to top up on hay fever tablets! It looks like spring is starting to finally show. I’ve seen quite a bit of red dead nettle around and some of our shrubs are finally coming into flower too, along with the daffodils and the odd dandelion. We have a pond right next to our beehive, which I noticed the bees were drinking from today too. It’s a pretty handy resource to have so close by.
The weather’s been consistently warmer recently so we decided to have a quick inspection of the hive today, despite the strong wind (the hive itself is pretty sheltered). We probably stayed in the hive for a little longer than we should have but we were less confident in our abilities to check for signs of ill health than we thought we would be. Photos of frames are no substitution for the real thing! I guess we will get quicker with more experience. In the end we decided that there was probably nothing untoward going on. One of our outer frames never got drawn out last season as the colony was taken on by our former colleague quite late in the season and was fairly weak. We noticed that there were some good looking supplies of honey on the outer frames. We also spotted the queen pretty easily (I assume this will become more of a challenge when the colony grows) and saw she had some
larvae. There were no signs of any queen cells yet, but we had assumed as much because of the lack of forage around up until very recently. Andrew having a look at a frame of honey stores during our first hive inspection of the season.
Having missed my association’s talk on swarm control, I decided it would be wise to head over to another group’s meeting to catch up on things. It’s always much easier to see things being done than reading methods from a book. I was warmly welcomed by the Leeds BKA and enjoyed their demonstration on different swarm control techniques. They have a lovely spot for their apiary and the night seemed well attended. Andrew and I have decided we’ll probably stick with the artificial swarm method for this season as we are not overly worried about getting large stocks of honey. I would be interested to try the demaree method in the future though.
Andrew and I attended the YBKA conference today. I thought the talks were really great. There was a great mix of advice, entertainment and information on hot topics such as pesticide issues. Looking at the huge variety of bee keeping books on offer has made me realise that I’ll never stop learning about the subject.
Today I decided I was going to switch the bees over from their fondant to a weak sugar solution. When I opened up the hive, a large section of our feeder had been taken over by more drawn comb! I decided the quickest thing to do would be to swap over the crown boards with a spare one we have. The outside frames of our brood box had a lot of honey on them and I think there was even a bit of honey in the comb they were drawing up into the fondant feeder. A fellow beekeeper advised that we probably didn’t need any more sugar for the time being so we decided to just to leave them be for now and keep an eye on the temperature. A quick look at some of the other combs revealed that much of the new brood has started to be capped over in what seems to be a pretty healthy pattern. The oilseed rape has taken a bit of a battering this season, but patches of it have started to flower in some of the surrounding fields now so we will have to keep an eye out for queen cells from now on.
Bees wasting their energy building comb up above the crown board!