I have almost given up looking at the weather forecast, it never seems to be that accurate at the moment!
If I remember correctly the forecast I looked at said it would be a max of 12 degs C on Saturday and max 13 degs C on Sunday but overcast. Well I can tell you that my own weather station recorded highs of 16 degs C and 17 degs C on those days respectively!
I am not complaining, it was both good for me and vey good for the bees, in fact I am starting to realise that bees have survived for millions of years and as beekeepers we worry too much when there is a period of bad weather.
This was in turn proved by my weekend inspections, most of my colonies are doing very well. I guess that the OSR (Oil Seed Rape) crop is finally giving some nectar and the bees are going crazy in collecting it aswell as pollen from the same flowers.
At this time of year, as beekeepers, we have to be ever vigilant in our inspections in looking for any signs of swarm preparation. Swarming is the natural reproduction cycle of bees and we cannot stop the urge the bees have to swarm entirely. We can delay the urge and sometimes fool the bees into believing that they have already swarmed!
As a beekeeper we don’t really want the bees to swarm as this interrupts the brood production and has a knock-on effect on honey production. It can also be a inconvenience to the general public.
I personally currently use the ‘Demaree’ method of swarm control after hearing a talk on it from a very experienced beekeeper at my association.
I will not describe the method in detail as there are many links to be found on the internet with a search.
Getting back to my weekend I took the opportunity of the good weather to do full inspections and swarm control on my hives.
On Saturday I planned to visit one of my out apiaries on the edge of a field, the photo below shows the equipment loaded into my car that I considered I would need for the visit.
This is how the apiary looked when I arrived.
There are currently five hives in this apiary. 4 full size and one Poly Nuc.
In the good weather the hives were very active and I soon found that they were doing very well. Looking across the field with a dark tree in the back ground I could see the bees shooting like bullets to and from the nearest field of OSR. I was truly impressed by their speed, which according to the internet is only an average of 15mph but they looked like bullets to me!
The above hive was on a single National brood box with one super (containing 10 frames of drawn comb) above a framed wired queen excluder.
First up was a quick check in the super.
As you can see from the above photo I was greeted with a really nice surprise that the bees were filling the frames in the super with honey! In total 8 out of the 10 frames had a fair amount of the cells filled already. This meant that they needed a 2nd super for space to work.
Next was to inspect the brood box and find the Queen so I could perform the Demaree method of swarm control.
This done I re-assembled the hive with the new brood box containing the Queen and most of the flying bees on the bottom, then the queen excluder and the existing super then a new super. On top of the super I added a division board (home made from a crown / clearing board) and then the original brood box with all of the rest of the brood and nurse bees in. Finally topping the hive off with the original crownboard and roof. All strapped together for safety against high winds.
I then performed the exact same procedure on the hive next to it and the photo below shows the 2 hives after I had finished.
During the inspection and Demaree manipulation the bees were very calm, possibly due to the warm weather and the OSR giving off a good flow of nectar.
After inspecting two other hives I decided they could also do with more space for the queen to lay so decided to add a 2nd brood box on each (double brood) as I don’t yet have enough division boards to demaree all of my hives at the same time!
The result is that those 4 hives now look like this.
The final colony in that out apiary was very small coming out of winter so I had previously re-housed it into a Poly Nucleus hive to give them less space to heat and hope they could expand. I have only inspected it once since to check on it’s progress and this time I checked it an decided it was time to move back to a full size brood box.
It took a while for the bees to settle into their new hive, probably not helped by the fact that the hive looks so different.
So that was one of the aparies inspected, it took several hours and required 2 trips with the car for the extra equipment. On the 2nd trip I also had my assistant beekeeper along to help!
My nephew Campbell who is almost 9yrs old and very keen to help me!
He always asks some very interesting questions about bees that occasionally make me stop and think about the subject from a different angle!
Sunday brought another glorious day and meant I could perform my inspections of my 2nd out apiary.
Another car load of equipment.
The plan was again to perform a Demaree on 2 hives and check the others. This apiary contains 7 hives, including my two poly hives.
As you can see from the above picture, they are starting to get pretty big. They did catch me out as my inspections had been limited due to the bad weather and I believe I may have lost a swarm from one of the 2 hives and the 2nd hive was preparing to swarm.
You may also notice that one of the hives also has 3 supers on! Yes they are filling supers almost as fast as I can make up new frames for them!
This is in complete contrast to my last post where some hives were close to needing emergency feeding, what a turn around!
A few hours of work later and I had performed a demaree on 2 more hives and double brooded one more. Several required another new super!
The above photo shows hives in different states of progress. One on a double brood, one that is still building up on just a single brood box and two hives that are demareed!
The last hive is currently one of my most productive of the wooden hives.
It currently is being demareed and has 3 supers, all being filled!
I shall be using this colony to breed some new queens from as the bees are calm and over wintered very well.
And finally back at home my last hive, which is another of the ‘slow to buildup’ colonies. They seem healthy enough, no obvious signs of disease but seem to be taking their time to buildup.
I was enthusiastically assisted with the inspection this time by another of my assistant beekeepers!
My niece Lucy (almost 7yrs). She showed no fear at all around the hive and was really pleased that we found the Queen during the inspection.
And that is how my weekend went. I am now planning the next weekend and what needs to be done!