It’s almost time to open the hives and see what shape we’re in for 2011. With the mild spring we’ve had plenty of bees flying. Today I’ve watched them carrying pollen into the hives which is an excellent sign. It needs to be a few degrees warmer before I open up for the first inspection – but it could happen as early as next week.
Last year wasn’t really very satisfactory. We extracted over 100lbs of honey but by the end of the season the apiary was full of odd nuc boxes, some queenless, some too small to be viable colonies and despite my records I’d lost track of what was in each hive. This was mostly the result of trying to maintain too many queen cells. May was tricky with its swarms. I lost one cast, and collected three more. I also ended up with one hive with two brood boxes and some angry bees which at times was too much to handle. So this year I’m going to treat things differently.
The picture shows how things looked this afternoon with three hives sitting on the platform above the shrubbery. Part A of the plan involves moving two of the hives down onto the quarry tile pads on the lawn. This should make them easier to manipulate. As things stand at the moment I have to deal with grumpy bees from one hive while I open the next. By the time I check the third I have two lots of grumpy bees trying to persuade me to go somewhere else.
The apple boxes sitting below the hives are part of the moving process. If I simply moved the hives straight down onto the lawn the bees would get confused. The flying bees returning from their foraging expedition wouldn’t find the hive. Instead they would gather on the ground close to where the hive used to sit and if the weather turned cold would probably freeze to death. They can cope with a move of about 3 feet at a time. Which is why if you’re moving hives you should either move them 3 feet or 3 miles. They cope with a major relocation because they recognise the landscape has changed and set about re-orienting themselves. What this means for my bees is that the hives will have to walk themselves slowly down to the lawn in easy stages. The apple boxes immediately below the hives represent the first stop on the journey.
Having more room will also give me a chance to try using an artificial swarm technique as a way of dealing with the appearance of queen cells which are usually the first sign that a swarm is imminent. More of this process as and when it becomes necessary.
I’m also due a visit from the Bee Inspector who will want to check the colonies after last year’s European Foul Brood scare.