This month's update from local beekeeper Gerald Bushby
I finished last month’s Blog saying that beekeeping is never dull and that something unexpected always seems to happen, good or bad to provide a challenge. Sometimes I hate being right.
Towards the end of March here in Oxfordshire, we had a week of unusually high temperatures during the day time, up to 19 deg C at times with clear blue cloudless skies day after day for over a week. It is still Spring however and we have had many night frosts. The day time temperatures have been high enough to encourage the bees out to take advantage of spring flowers which have begun to emerge. Walking around my home area the oil seed rape plants in several fields nearby are turning yellow as the flowers at the top of the plants gradually develop ready to be visited by the bees.
Unfortunately, however in the apiary things are not so rosy. Readers may recall that I had to report the loss of one of my three hives last month. As this month progressed, I began to notice a large difference between the number of bees coming and going from the two remaining hives. One was very active and one was not.
Having lost the one hive last month I had added feed to the two remaining hives to ensure that they both had sufficient supplies of food and at that time they both had bees. I had not opened up the hives to carry out an inspections as I did not want to disturb the clusters or the queens too early in the year so I just hoped that with the additional feed they would both develop as spring progressed.
My concerns grew about one of the hives as day by day I could only see very few bees flying in and out of the hive entrance. During one of the recent warm days I opened up the hive only to find many dead bees and very few live bees at all. Another hive has perished. I am now down to my last remaining hive. This last remaining hive does seem to be relatively active and on a positive note I have noticed that many of the bees entering this hive are bringing in pollen, an indication that a queen is laying and there is brood that is being fed.
I am reluctant to open up my now one remaining hive. I have checked that they still have sufficient additional feed and I think I will not open up the hive yet to check on the queen and for brood but will wait until the weather is consistently warmer. I will leave well alone for a while and hope that bee numbers increase and that all is well.
There is not much more I can do at the moment but hope for the best and hope that my remaining hive does have a laying queen and that the hive expands. How I proceed for the new season will depends very much on what happens to this hive. Ideally, I want to go into next winter with at least three colonies. Too many colonies in spring is much better than too few.
As I said, beekeeping is never dull. It’s going to be a challenging season.