Saturday, 23 April 2016

2016 Bee Visits for Widcome West Residents

I've now set up the calendar of visits for 2016.  So, if you're a resident of the Widcome West area, why not come along and see the hives for yourself?  You'll get to see inside a beehive, hold a frame of honeycomb, and maybe - if you have sharp eyes - you'll spot the queen!

There are a few things you need to know first - all of which are explained on this Information Sheet.

When you're ready, sign up to one of the sessions by clicking this link:


I haven't seen inside my beehives since the end of September.  Half a year has passed while my bees have gone about their business, uninterrupted by me, waiting out the winter.  And April has been colder than usual this year, so I've had to wait a while for it to be warm enough to open the hives (15°C is the minimum temperature).  Finally, on Wednesday, we had a warm sunny day.  Time to take a look inside!

I started with Florence's hive - she was a late-emerging queen, after the hive had lost their previous new queen in a swarm.  The colony had been without a laying queen for two months, and the number of bees had fallen significantly.  They'd recovered numbers slightly after Florence started laying, but the colony was still small at the end of Autumn.  Small colonies can struggle to get through Winter, so I wanted to see if they'd made it through.

The colony is still small - there are bees on only three frames, and they have clustered on the right-hand side of the hive (the end that gets the evening sun - the hives are in shade at midday, so the western-facing side is the warmest).  There is still plenty of honey on the frames - this is good news, because colonies can starve if they run out of winter stores and then the spring is too cold for foraging.

When I get to the cluster, I see some good news - freshly-laid eggs, as well as older brood that are almost ready to emerge:

Honey, nectar, pollen, brood, and bees!
There's plenty of positive signs on this frame:  honey stores are good, and there is also freshly-collected pollen.  The bees need both the honey (carbohydrates) and pollen (protein) to feed the new grubs.  I can also see freshly-gathered nectar, so I know that they have been foraging well on the spring blossom.  I didn't see Florence, as this was quite a quick inspection, but there are recently-laid eggs so I know she is in there somewhere.

And, because it's a sunny day, there are foragers regularly flying in and out of the hive:

A few bees coming and going
I put the roof back on, and open up Miriam's hive.  Her colony was much larger in the Autumn, so I am surprised to see bees on only four frames.  Have they had a disaster, and lost their queen?

Good news!  I spot Miriam scurrying around one of the frames, and I can see some eggs that she laid today.  Perhaps the cold April weather has made things difficult for them?  Not to worry - they have plenty of honey and pollen, and the warmer weather will be here soon.  I'll check again in a fortnight - I expect both hives will be busier then.