What be the Bees Doing?

At last, a sunny, not windy day and a chance to inspect the bees. It still wasn’t warm mind with temperatures around 11ºC here at Ynyslas but we decided to have a quick look at the bees anyway. There was a feeling of Spring in the air with flowers out in the garden and people sun-bathing on the beach.

First Bee Inspection of the Year

We have three hives at the bottom of the garden at the moment. As we went into Autumn with them they looked OK but not great. The first housed a small but healthy looking colony that had recently re-queened. The second housed an older colony that looked quite strong and the third housed a small artificially swarmed colony that we weren’t sure if it had re-queened or not. Two out of three of them have been on brood and a half over the winter and all had been fed with syrup in the autumn, fondant over the winter and some more syrup earlier in the Spring. The two healthier looking colonies had also had the best part of a day exposed to the elements after one of the mighty autumnal storms blew them over.

Bee Hives

Bee Hives

As usual the first inspection of the year is alway a bit of a mystery as you just don’t know what you’ll find. Have the bees survived, is there still a queen, are they on the brink of disaster or will there just be a big pile of dead bees?

Hive 1

Hive 1 in our apiary is the hive that we weren’t sure about. It was an artificially swarmed colony from Hive number 2 late last summer and we hadn’t seen any signs of queen activity before closing it up for the winter. Our last notes on it said

“do we leave this in the hope that it requeens before winter, or do we merge it with the queenright but very small colony in our out apiary?”

We opted to do the former (which meant doing nothing and hoping for the best). In hindsight that was the correct option as the hives in the out apiary didn’t make it into the winter. Today’s inspection revealed that there were still bees in there, although only a very very small number. They don’t even cover an entire frame, but there was a queen and there was also eggs. So, the colony did re-queen and it looks as though she has been mated and is laying too. It’s definitely a bit touch-and-go in there though with so few bees but hopefully she can get her act together and the number of bees will start to increase.

The weather looks good for the next week or so which should help them out.

Hive 2

This hive houses an old colony that was split several times last year. All looked OK with this one except for the fact that we didn’t see any eggs. We did however see the queen and some brood so hopefully all is well.

Hive 3

This hive houses a colony that was artificially swarmed from Hive 2 last year and therefore had a new queen in it. All seemed fine in here too. The bees are still using the small gap at the back of the hive rather than the main entrance. We’ve decided that it’s not a problem and have therefore left them to it. We saw the queen, eggs, larvae and brood and they had quite a bit of stores too. There were also more bees in here than the other colonies. Still not loads, but it is still early in the year.

Moving Forwards

As is always the case, it’s still a difficult time for the bees. The sun might be shining and temperatures might be gradually rising but there still isn’t much food around for them. That’s especially the case out here in Ynyslas. On top of that there is the always present threat of disease and infection not to mention the fact that a sudden cold snap could set them back. For now though we appear to have 3 small queen-right colonies. If fortune is on their side they should start increasing in numbers over the next few weeks and then we’ll be on the lookout for signs of swarming. So begins the beekeeping season.


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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.