Sunday, March 26, 2017

Early Spring Management

I dropped in on the bees today to catch up on where I left things a couple of weeks ago.  The good news is that since I removed the removable bottom boards the moisture in the hives has disappeared. It's either that or down to the fact the bees are growing in number and are therefore keeping moisture levels down through their fanning.  Ventilation is much better now and the weather warmer.

Hive 1: This now has brood throughout the 2 supers as well as the deep on the top of the stack!  I'm going to have to get things back on track and I think the best way is to trap the queen in one of the 3 boxes using 2 queen excluders and then re-organise things.  I'll add QEs next weekend, then look for larvae the following week.  Bingo where there's larvae that's where she'll be!  Apart from that the hive looks good - quite a bit of stores and brood present and some, but not a large quantity, of drone brood.

Hive 2: This is doing well.  There's even a couple of completely capped frames of honey in one of the supers! The brood is in good shape too.  There were 6 or 7 frames with brood on them in the deep so I added a second deep to the hive and 'seeded' the this with a couple of frames of brood. I may take the supers off in order to make space for fresh foundation - but that's something for next week or at least once spring really gets moving. If this hive builds up well I will attempt to make a split from this hive.

Hive 3: I took the empty deep from this hive and added it to Hive 2.  The bees are mostly in the deep below the QE but there are several frames of bees and I'm happy with the way this is coming on!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

First Inspection of the year!

I completed my first inspection of the year yesterday.  It seems late I know but there just really hasn't been a good enough weather window when I was around.  Anyway the fog lifted, the sun came out and I leapt at the opportunity.

I wasn't sure what I'd find; the bees have been quite active so far this year so I was hopeful to find things were all settled and in good shape.  And generally that's exactly what I found! Although I have to say they seemed further advanced than I was expecting for mid March.

We have 3 hives, all had mite treatment in December, all have been active, some more than others...

Hive 1:
This is the hive that is nearest the big house (on the left in the above photo) and I think this has been the most active over the winter; at least every time I have been to the apiary this hive has had the most bees flying.  When I arrived yesterday I found a great crush of bees trying to enter the hive, many laden with great piles of pollen.  

This hive comprises 1 deep and 2 supers.  We left the supers on over the winter with heather honey we couldn't extract. I found there was quite a bit of honey stored in the supers, together with significant quantities of brood (see the following photo)!  There was plenty of pollen in the supers near the brood as well, so apart from the fact the brood is in the wrong place the bees looked OK.  

The deep was empty of brood but did contain some honey so I decided to move the supers (and therefore the brood) under the deep.  I hope the supers will gradually empty and the deep will fill with brood. I'll pop on a Queen Excluder on soon.

Hive 2:
This hive has a single deep and 2 supers and is usually quieter than the first and sure enough there were fewer bees around the entrance. Inside the hive I found lots of stores in the both supers, but no brood.  In the deep (at the bottom of the hive) there was a tonne of brood - 5 or 6 frames worth in a lovely pattern, a nice oval with some space for laying in the middle, together with pollen and honey surrounding the capped cells.  This is looking really,  really, strong!

The thought occurred to me that perhaps the reason they were quieter was down to the fact they had more stores in the hive and so didn't need to venture out as much!

I popped a Queen Excluder under the supers and will keep a watch on the brood - certainly on a week by week basis.  I think this could be my main hive for splitting this season - We have the necessary equipment available but I have nevertheless made some enquiries about additional stands, OMF etc.

Hive 3:
Dave's Hive. This hive comprises 2 deeps and a single super.  One deep contained brood and stores, the other deep had no brood and was mostly empty of stores.  The super contained some stores. I left the deep with brood at the bottom of the hive, slipped a Queen Excluder over this then added the super and finally the deep (which is a 'new' one) on top.  I may well use this deep for the future split. Again this hive looks to be in good shape.

I removed all the entrance reducers, the mouse guards and the OMF screen boards; the latter to help improve ventilation within the hive.  I found in all hives a lot of condensation, in the frame rebates and particularly at the top in the roofs where there was some mold growth too.

So it was an excellent first inspection.  The hives look strong and more advanced than I expected for the time of year.  I will have to keep a close eye on them, most particularly the middle one as the brood chamber is filling quickly.  Opportunities therefore exist for making splits.  I need to get organized, get some existing equipment cleaned up and buy some new deep frames and foundation.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Early Spring Activity

It's been about a week and a half since I went to the hives and found a lot of activity. Bees were out foraging and drinking water - or perhaps they were bringing it back to the hive in order to dissolve some crystallized honey? It was lovely to seem them in apparent good health and mite free.

I say mite free.  Since the treatment in late December I have checked the board under the OMF for debris and have found little or no mite drop in the weeks since.  Not a perfectly scientific approach I admit, more empirical if you will, but it gives me confidence that the treatment was good.

I also  plan to open the hives up this weekend to do a proper early spring inspection and also to remove any old frames. I left several supers on the hives over the winter as they contained some heather honey I couldn't extract.   I will be checking the brood (quality and location) and will look to remove any empty supers, especially if there are any signs of wax moth.  I hope to reduce the empty space in the hive.

The inspection will also give me a chance to see if I need to embark on any spring feeding.

In the meantime here are some photos and videos I took of the hives.  I love listening to that buzz!