Yesterday wasn’t predicted to be sunny. And yet it was. The whole apiary was lit up; the daffodils glowed, the bees zoomed.
It was the first practical session for this year’s intake of newbee beekeepers doing the Ealing association’s beginners course. There was some moaning from a few of the men as apparently the rugby was on! But they were very lucky really – if it had been raining we wouldn’t have been able to do anything, but instead they all helped me inspect our three hives. Exciting for me too as it was the first time I’ve seen inside the hives since early October.
There were six newbies (four men & two ladies – incidentally mostly in their late twenties/early thirties I think), none of whom had ever looked inside a hive before. So they were learning the very basics: checking the crown board for the queen, prising frames apart with a hive tool, holding the frames vertically so that nectar doesn’t fall out, keeping the frames over the hive in case the queen falls off and how to put the hive back together without squashing bees.
There is quite a lot to learn which you take for granted once you’ve had practice. For instance, I found it hard to distinguish between dark capped honey and capped brood in the beginning. Many people mistake drones for queens at first. Is that bell shaped bit of comb you’re looking at a ‘charged’ queen cell with a larvae inside, or just a play cup?
I was pleased that everyone had a go and no-one seemed afraid of the bees. One person had no gloves on at all and the rest thin latex gloves. Our bees are really docile so there were no stings or even any agitation. Plus we saw all three queens, what a treat!
The only downer from my point of view was that Chamomile’s ladies in their two brood boxes has very little brood – only about a frame and a half. There’s a load of honey and pollen in the top box but not much going on down below where Chamomile is. The other two colonies (headed up by Queens Myrtle and Chilli) had at least double that amount of brood.
Being slow to build up in spring is a classic symptom of nosema, so I’m wondering if feeding some thymol syrup would be a good idea. Does anyone know any good recipes? Thornes is selling Vitafeed Gold, which they say “is particularly effective when applied to colonies infected with nosema” – but I have no experience of using this myself. In the past I’ve used Fumadil B as a preventative, which is no longer licensed for use in the UK.
Also, having just read Randy Oliver’s post on The Nosema twins: alternative treatments, he says “A recent study by Eischen (2008) indicates that feeding pollen supplement during winter may be as effective as fumagillin treatment for promoting health of colonies with light infections!”. I have some Nektapol supplement, so this may be the best colony to give it to. It’s also possible that Chamomile was poorly mated after she emerged last year and is running out of eggs, causing her to slow down production. Welcome to the beekeepers’ guessing game.
After a cup of tea I went to meet up with Tom and one of the managers of a local allotment site. We were checking out a plot to see if we can put bees there. Even though there is a huge waiting list for the allotments, several gardeners have turned the plot down as it’s bordered by trees and a bit overgrown with brambles. However, with a bit of tidying up it’ll be grand for bees. And for the tidying we may even get the help of some young offenders doing community service!
As long as none of the other allotment holders turn out to be allergic to bees, it looks hopeful that we can move our bees there from their current location in Hanwell, as their current site is a bit problematic for a few reasons. Fingers crossed.