April 2010

Well, after last month’s report I thought we would now be well into the flying season, but the weather has let us down yet again. Whilst we have had some good flying days, too often have we seen the bees further confined to the hive owing to cold or wet weather. But that does not mean that the bees are doing nothing.

On the fine days though, my water sources (an old loft header tank in one apiary, a lemonade bottle inverted over a dish in another, an old oil drum in another) are literally buzzing with bees gathering water for their young brood and to dilute the granulated ivy stores they gathered last autumn. This is always a good sign. The entrances of the hives have not seen so much traffic for a good few months and it is heartening to behold.

It is still too early (in my opinion) to open up the hive for a detailed examination of the combs but this is not far off now – another week or so, hopefully. In the meantime, watching the entrance activity or looking down into the colony through my Perspex crown-boards (the “ceiling” of the inner part of the hive) can give a good indication of the state of the colony.

Now the days are getting longer and warmer (hard to believe, I know), the queen isincreasing her laying rate and the number of young bees orientating outside the hive entrances last Saturday show that the colonies are expanding quite rapidly. The danger is that the colonies will expand during the bad weather and need more stores than are available from the winter supply, so supplemental feeding is necessary. I have had sugar candy on each of my hives since the beginning of February as an emergency back-up should the bees need it. Some of the colonies are working their way through this like there is no tomorrow, whilst others are virtually ignoring it. That’s fine and quite normal – no two bee colonies are ever alike. As long as there is something for the bees to eat when they need it, all will be well.

The other problem with colonies expanding whilst being unable to fly out is that they might become congested, resulting in a potential risk that they will swarm when the weather gets warmer. This is not a desirable situation for the beekeeper because a lost swarm means the loss of about half the bees from the colony as well as the loss of any honey harvest that season. This is apart from the effect a swarm might have on members of the public who witness such an event – but more about that next time.

Since the last report, my bees’ honey has won 1st and 2nd Prize for Flavour, 1st and 3rd Prize in the Light Honey Class, and 3rd Prize for Granulated at the Roseland Beekeepers’ Honey Show, and 1st Prize, 3rd Prize, and Highly Commended in the Granulated Class, 1st Prize, Very Highly Commended and Highly Commended at the Cornwall Beekeepers’ Association Honey Show, so I don’t want any swarms to leave my hives this season!

I will explain what I shall be doing to prevent this next time.

Colin Rees, colinbeeman@aol.com Tel: 01872 501313

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