01 March 2019
I am Gerald Bushby (pronounced bush bee!) a beekeeper in Weston on the Green, a small village in Oxfordshire. I am going to be writing a monthly blog about the bees in my apiary. I hope you will find it interesting. I should start by saying that I am not an expert, having only kept bees for three years. Anything I say is my own personal opinion; I accept that there may often be other views and opinions.
The beginning of February saw 75mm of snow here in Weston on the Green and on one night the temperature dropped to -7degC. Two days later the snow was gone and the daytime temperature reached 10degC. Bees from all three hives started flying and, more importantly, I could see that they were bringing back pollen to the hives. An indication that the queens were already laying eggs.
As the month has progressed the supposed controller of out weather, the Jet Stream, has brought a plume of warm air from the south and an area of high pressure over the country leading to clear sky’s with wonderful warm unbroken sun for day after day giving rise to daytime temperatures in the high teens but dropping below freezing at night. The bees response was immediate, spring is here it is time to fly and start working!
It is interesting to see the direct effect of the warming sun on the hives which are positioned in a straight line behind the south facing wall of my barn. The bees wont fly until the temperature reaches double figures but as the temperature reaches this figure and the sun rises higher in the sky, it hits the left hand hive first and the others afterwards. Within minuets of the sun hitting the first hive it is as if a switch has been thrown. Whilst there is little activity in the hives still in the shade, the bees in the one warmed by the sun stream out of the hive. As the sun move round and hits the other hives in turn the same thing happens, one be one the hives burst into life.
The days have been so warm in the middle of the day that I decided to carry out my first inspection of the year. This is probably a month earlier that I would normally do this but the temperature was high enough and I could not contain my curiosity to see how the hives were progressing.
As you may remember I have been trying to bring three hives through the winter. One full size hive and two nucleus colonies. The main hive contains the “white queen” who is in her second year and the two nucleus colonies were started last July from queens I bought in, which are both marked red. I have been concerned by one of the nucleus colonies over winter as it has always had less flying bees than the other nucleus colony on days when bees had been flying.
I started my inspection with the main hive. The bees have been in this hive for some time so not only did I want to inspect the colony but I also wanted to have a spring clean. I decided that the easiest way of doing this was to move the whole colony into a new clean hive.
The floor of the hive has slots in it to allow debris and more importantly varroa mites that the bees dislodge, to drop to the ground under the hive. These slots are quite narrow so as to prevent bees and particularly wasps from entering the hive from below. Over time these slots become blocked by various bits of bees and wax capping’s and need cleaning.
I lifted the old hive to the side and placed the new brood box on its new clean base in exactly the same position as the old hive. This is very important as the bees, especially the bees out flying always return to the same spot. Had I placed the replacement hive somewhere nearby the bees would have been very confused. There is a general rule that you should not move a hive any more than three feet or less than three miles to avoid confusion.
I started moving the 11 frames from the old brood box one at a time into the new brood box ensuring that they were moved so as to be in exactly the same relationship as they were in the old brood box yet again so as not to confuse the bees.
Looking at each frame as I moved them one at a time I could see that there was still stores of last seasons honey, new stores of nectar and pollen and most importantly new capped brood. The queen was alive and laying and as I moved onto the fifth frame there she was, the white queen, walking over the frame. The white queen however had become the grey queen as the white paint marking had faded over the last year. Time for a re paint. I caught her and applied a new spot of white paint so that on the next inspection she will hopefully be more obvious to find.
I then moved on to the two nucleus colonies. My fears were unfounded, both had a reasonable number of bees, stores of last seasons honey, new stores of nectar and pollen and as with the main hive, most importantly new capped brood. I even saw both of the “red queens”.
So far so good, the season is starting well. I am hoping there will be no beast from the east, west, north or south this year.
I am a proud supporter of the ‘Bees for development’ charity, my love of the bee drew me to this wonderful UK based charity and the great work they do around the world with Bees and the impact they can have on people’s lives. Please help me support this wonderful organisation, as 2BScientific will be doing with donations to this hard-working charity.