What a beautiful day it was yesterday. Today is predicted to be even better, a very un-March like 15°C/59ºF in London!
As Jonesie said, there was a “buzz in the air” at the apiary. The bees were zipping in and out with purpose, returning with bulging yellow pollen baskets. Shopping time!
Us humans needed to stock up too. Before any beekeeping could be done, tea and cake were required. This cake is a true work of art. The lady who made it used a template she found online and drew round it on her computer screen – ingenious.
Nothing like a cake bulging with jam and cream.
Tea inside us, it was time to see our bees. We had a young visitor named Benjamin. He lives nearby and is still at school. It was a good day for him to visit, as it was the first day of the year we’ve been able to take the crown boards off and quickly peek inside.
What we saw made us happy. Jonesie’s two hives and mine and Emma’s three are all alive and thriving, on between six-eight frames. As so much pollen was coming in I removed our mouse guards – they can cause pollen to be lost as the bees push through.
It will also be easier for them to bring out the dead now. The winter bees are dying off; until May developing brood will outnumber adult bees in the hive. It is a difficult time for the few adults as they try to feed all their young charges. Benjamin noticed a “bee graveyard” in front of one of the hives, a macabre pile of dead bodies on the floor.
Tom has been mentoring me and Jonesie and was pleased with the results. We have been using insulated roofs which Tom made, plus additional polystyrene insulation inside the roof cavity above the fondant feed. “Place your hand on the fondant” he said, “feel how warm it is”. He believes the insulation helps keep that heat in the fondant, assisting the bees. They need to maintain the brood nest at a toasty 34-35°C so that the growing larvae develop properly.
So far we have only had one hive die overwinter in the apiary. We started with eleven colonies, which has gone down to ten after one nucleus died. I think a combination of regular comb changing, using Apiguard and oxalic acid anti-varroa treatments, making sure the bees have enough food (Emma and I only took a couple of frames from one hive last year), good insulation and loving care is the secret. We have been lucky with the mild winter too.
As we walked around watching our bees, the sounds of the local bagpiper floated insistently through the air. He often practices on sunny Saturday afternoons; I think it was the first time I’ve heard him this year. There are rumours that he stands in the middle of a field wearing his kilt as he blasts out his notes. It felt like he was triumphantly announcing the coming of spring for us.