With the great weather over the weekend I was able to get round to full inspections on my hives and catch up with the tasks I wanted to perform including cleaning the rest of the floors on the hives and marking all the queens.
As I mentioned in my last post the hives in the apiary on the field of OSR have now leapfrogged ahead of the other apiaries and are already storing nectar in their supers!
I personally believe that a stock of drawn comb, brood or super, is like gold dust!
In the picture above you see one of the super combs drawn out by the bees last year and after extraction it was given back to the bees to clean up before storage over winter.
Depending on which book / reference you read it takes approx 6-9 lbs of honey for bees to produce 1 lb of wax so you can easily imagine that when the bees don’t have to drawn the combs out before filling them this greatly increases your honey crop potential.
Over the last two years I have slowly but surely built up a stock of drawn comb and now the art is maintaining that stock by knowing when the best time of year is to get the bees to draw out new comb and when to replace old comb.
Comb in supers can be used for several years so long as it is maintained and stored properly over winter. In fact I have some frames of comb in my supers that I inherited from my father and only retire them when the wooden frames finally break!
Brood comb needs changing more often for hygiene to prevent disease buildup or increased doses of pesticides building up in the hive.
Also in brood comb when a new bee hatches it leaves behind a very small lining in the cell from its cocoon and if the cell is used too many times the bees will eventually become smaller as the cell gets smaller!
I have now read from a professional beekeeper that says the above is actually a myth and that they had previously comb that had been used for brooding for 50+ years prior to having to refresh comb due to disease protection etc.
In my experience the bees eventually make a mess of brood comb by changing cells to hatch drones or chewing holes in the wax and / or adding queen cells.
I was once told by a very experienced keeper that a good large swarm is one of the best comb building machines! By this he meant that a swarm are expecting to build new comb as soon as they find a new home. I can say that last year one swarm I housed in a 6 frame polynuc (during the OSR flow) was drawing out full brood frames from foundation in a matter of days. So much so that I was having to replace 2 frames each time I inspected as they had not only drawn the frames out but filled and capped them with honey and there was no space fo the queen to lays eggs!
Bees don’t drawn comb out for fun! They drawn it out when they require the space, either for the queen to lay eggs in or for storage of nectar and pollen. So a good strong nectar flow is ideal.
Back to my Bank Holiday beekeeping and as I mentioned the OSR field is getting more and more yellow each time I visit.
You would think it would be easy to photograph bees on OSR, believe me it took me quite few attempts!
The bees seem to realise that the combination of good weather and OSR flowering is time limited and I swear they work faster than at any other time in the year.
In the above photo you can just see the reflection on the surface of the nectar that the bees are starting to store in this frame from the super.
In general all 5 hives are already working the 1st supers that were added just 2-3 days before!
Having seen the weather forecast for the rest of this week I hope that the rain we get helps as the fields are extremely dry at the moment and hopefully the OSR will give more nectar if there is some rain.
As I mentioned I managed to find and mark / re-mark all the queens in my hives. I still have a couple of queens from 2011 going strong in the hives which needed re-marking as most of the paint had worn off. The rest of the hives all have 2012 queens which had never been marked. It’s a lot easier to find and mark queens at the start of the year as there are physically a lot less bees on the frames to look through. Marking them now should make it a lot easier when it comes to swarm prevention manipulations in a few weeks time!
Speaking of which I saw the drones that have hatched out in the hives. Still only a few per hive but I expect the number to increase now the flow has come.
I am happy to say that the weaker colonies are now starting to slowly buildup and with luck there will be no more dead hives this year. Across the 10 hives I currently have the amount of growth (measured by the increase in brood) varies greatly between hives with some having doubled their brood nest since last inspection whilst others have just a small increase.
Finally for this post I hope that we have a great summer ahead of us, as well as the OSR flowering (I know that not everyone has some near their bees) there seems to be a lot of plants coming in to bloom in quick succession including Hawthorne, Apple and Dandelion.