Beekeeping Season has Begun

Temperature may have only just got into double figures today with the Borth Weather Station recording a maximum of 11.1ºC at 1:47pm, but the bees were busy. We watched them for a while and could see that they were bringing in loads of pollen. There was was orange pollen, lots of white pollen, yellow pollen and some reddish-orange pollen too. It’s difficult to know where exactly this pollen is coming from, but I think the reddish orange is probably dandelion, the orange maybe snowdrop, the yellow is possible from willow and I’m not sure about the white pollen, possibly hellebores.

With this much pollen being taken into the hive it was a sure sign that the queens were laying and there was brood to be reared. We therefore decided to do our first proper inspection of the beekeeping season.

Once again, with temperature still quite low we only wanted to have a quick look, but there were a few things we wanted to do if the bees co-operated.

  1. They have been on brood and a half over the winter so if the queens were seen and were in the brood box we wanted to put queen excluders between the brood box and the super.
  2. The entrance blocks needed opening up.
  3. The levels of syrup and fondant feed we had given them needed checking.
  4. The levels of stores needed checking.
  5. The floors probably needed cleaning.

We donned our suits, got smoker going and headed off to the apiary in the sunshine.

Clettwr

We started with the hive we call Clettwr which I expected to be the quieter of the two. We opened it up, gave them a little bit of smoking and then checked a few frames in the super. There was very little in the way of stores here, but there were quite a few bees. We decided to carefully move this to one side. I say carefully as there was every chance that the queen was on one of these frames and we didn’t want to disturb her or worse still let her fall out or squash her.

We then started an inspection of the frames in the brood box. Once again there wasn’t much in the way of stores, but there was some pollen being stashed away and better still we soon came across some brood and some eggs. The queen was obviously still present and laying too. Anna’s eagle eyes then spotted her, so rather than continue to disturb them and get them too chilled we put the frames back into place and put the queen excluder on top of the brood box. We did notice that there was a sea of dead bees completely covering the mesh floor though so we swapped the floor with a fresh clean one and opened up the entrance block too.

We did note as we were manipulating the bees that there seemed to be more bees than we’ve ever had, and that’s already, this early in the season. That is of course good news, but it also means lots of hungry mouths to feed so hopefully they’ll be able to find plenty to forage on. I’d say they were already covering 6 frames within the brood box, and there were of course quite a few bees in the super too.

Leri

Next up was the busier of the two hives and the plan here was the same.

We opened up the hive, had a quick look at a couple of frames in the super and this time they had some unsealed stores up here. It was probably honey made from the sugar syrup we’ve recently given them, but at least they had something there. Once again we carefully moved the super to one side so that we could inspect the brood box. This hive had even more bees in it and they were probably covering around 8 frames in total. As I moved the outer frames, they were all quite heavy and a quick look showed them to be full of stores. As we moved through the hive the stores were soon replaced with brood and we saw eggs and larvae too. The pattern on the frames was quite good as well.

Anna’s eagle eyes once again spotted the queen, so again rather than continue to disturb them we replaced the frames, put on the queen excluder and closed up the hive. The floor in this hive didn’t have any dead bees on it so there was no need for a change. We did open up the entrance block for them though.

All in all it was a very successful beginning to our beekeeping season:

  • Both hives had been inspected.
  • We’d seen the queen in both of them and she was laying as she should be.
  • There was brood in all stages of development.
  • There was plenty of stores in Leri.
  • The queens were in the brood boxes so we were able to place the queen excluders on both hives.
  • Floors were cleaned and replaced where needed.
  • Entrance blocks were opened up.
  • All is looking good.

It’s still a critical time of the beekeeping season though as they are now building up rapidly so need lots of food, lots of energy and hopefully a nice long spell of decent weather. The temperatures still drop off quite quickly at night though and last year we had a cold snap and loads of snow much later than this so they certainly aren’t out of the woods yet. We’ve done all we can for them so far, so now we just have to be vigilant, make sure they stay well fed and start inspecting more regularly. They could start showing signs of swarming fairly early this year if they continue to swell in numbers in the way they currently seem to be. This would be ideal for us assuming we can perform artificial swarms and make increase before they actually swarm themselves, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves there – first things first – lets get Spring we’ll and truly established and summer on its way please.

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Alan Cole

Alan is a Freelance Website Designer, Sports & Exercise Science Lab Technician and full time Dad & husband with far too many hobbies: Triathlete, Swimming, Cycling, Running, MTBing, Surfing, Windsurfing, SUPing, Gardening, Photography.... The list goes on.