Thursday, 31 March 2011

Waiting - for the sun.

Buds on my pear tree (see last posting) are now in full bloom. The bees had been visiting the tree on sunny days, and the flowers are also attracting a number of bumble bees from around. What is a lacking are higher temperature - warm enough for the bees and for me to suit up and give my hives a good going over.

After the initial warm spells a few weeks ago the weather did an about turn and we are back to waiting for warm sunny days again.

Meanwhile I am getting some equipments ready for the all important first proper inspection and, of course, the swarming season. Two new brood boxes are laying in my sitting room ready for action, and so am I. I have also bought a glass quilt. No, this is not to keep the bees warm, but a transparent crown board that will allow me to observe the hive without having to remove the board thus less disturbance to the bees. It will be fun to see them in action inside the hive. I am sure my family will love it.

My next job is to make a Snelgrove board, which I shall be needing when the swarm season gets under way. This is a clever piece of kit which is used to maintain hive number (an essential consideration if you have a small garden) when carrying out artificial swarming. I shall post a photo of this when (if) I have successfully made one.

Come sun!

Thursday, 10 March 2011

First sight

Tuesday, March 8th. Today is International Women's day. The day began with a light frost but it soon gave way to the warm spring sun. By the afternoon there were hard shadows on my garden wall. Air temperature had climbed to a low double figure. The bees (all female) are out in numbers dancing, enjoying the sun.

I took this window of opportunity to do a quick hive inspection. Hive 1 (my older one) looks fine although the population number is on the low side. I saw quite a few dead bees on the floor including a few dead unhatched young bees. This is the hive that had a big population and lost a large number of bees in the winter. I had to remove two big clumps of dead bees from the land board a few months ago. The bees are now busy cleaning and there are sign of pollen.

Deep into mid hive I was pleased to see a few sealed brood cells and sign of young grubs. Although I cannot find the Queen, it has to be somewhere. I noted that there are still a few frames of honey left from last season so my concern for their lacking in food, a few days ago, may be unfounded. Bees from this hive displayed an inquisitive rather that over active concern at my opening up the hive. This is very different in Hive 2 as I discovered later.

The bees number in hive 2 is much greater and they are more agiutated with my inspection. Again no sign if the Queen. At present this, I think, is the stronger colony, which is the reverse to last year. Once again there are signs of seal brood cells and grubs though there were less honey store then Hive 1. I had some difficulties in prising open the frames. My effort in doing so only served to annoy them even more. The bees had done a good job cementing the frames together.

Well I now know where the colonies are at, so I shall wait for the weather to improve further before I open the hive up again.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Third Season: March 2011

At the end of February we had a few days of 'warm' weather then quite suddenly the cold returns. The few Great and Blue tits that had gone elsewhere for wild food were once again visiting my bird feeders. With them came two Robins and the usual host of Wood and Town pigeons hanging around for bits of seeds discarded by the smaller birds.

When the air was warming up I had hoped that at last I could start the beekeeping season with a quick look at what is happening with my hives. Memory of last year's early swarming is still fresh in my mind when I checked my hive late in Match.

The good news is that both hives are showing signs of life: The bees are flying. I had been worrying about the amount of food they may have left. When I last checked I discovered that, over the winter, they had hardly touch the syrup I left for them at the end of the season back in October. I mentioned this to a friend last weekend and she suggested that I really need to take a closer look and may need to feed them.

So on Tuesday I took advantage of the dry spell and cook up a new sugary mixture ( 1kg sugar: 1 L water). While I placed the syrup in the feeder for the bees I also gave both hives a big dollop of honey (from last year). The reaction was immediate. A few more bees flew out to investigate. They were out and about again yesterday. Today the sky is grey and chill wind is blowing so all I can do is wait and keep and eye on the weather forecast.