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Bee Blog May 2022

This month's update from local beekeeper Gerald Bushby

At last some good news. On a warm day in the middle of the month I inspected my one remaining hive and found that the queen had survived the winter, she was alive and well and had started laying eggs. I could see that there was brood and that it was developing nicely.

I was somewhat nervous opening the hive. There was evidence recently that the queen was alive as there has been quite a lot of flying bees coming and going and many of these were bringing pollen into the hive, but from previous experience a lot of flying bees does not always mean everything is well or that there is a live queen.

At this time of year it is much easier to find the queen. The numbers of bees is low giving a greater chance than the 1 in 50,000 chance of sighting the queen that is necessary during the summer months. I found her quite easily this time. I saw that she already had a white marking on her back indicating that she was the overwintered queen from last year. I caught her and freshened up her white paint to try to make her more obvious and to make finding her easier later in the year. Finding the queen is quite a skill, she is longer than the other bees and moves in a different way pushing other bees out of her way, as befits a queen. On a full frame of moving active bees however she is still very difficult to find.

Finding the queen this year may be more important than normally. If the hive builds up into a strong colony I will be wanting to split the hive to form another colony and making sure that the queen is in the right part of the split is quite important. Splitting the colony is probably the easiest method of increasing my number of colonies and is certainly the most economic. I could buy in a nucleus colony from a beekeeping supplier. This is a half size colony consisting of 5 frames with a queen, brood and worker bees. The 2022 cost of these nucleus colonies are in the region of £300.00.

I don’t think I have referred to the cost of keeping bees previously. All hobbies have a cost, some, like gym membership have a reoccurring cost every year. With beekeeping most of the cost is in the initial set up: attending a course, buying the hive, equipment, protective clothes and a colony of bees etc. For anyone wanting to start I would estimate that the 2022 start up costs to be in the region of £1,200.00. The reoccurring costs are relatively low, occasionally buying in a new queen or perhaps a nucleus colony. Other than that my main outlay each year is for jars and labels.

My photograph this month, unusually, doesn’t show a bee. It is a photograph of the oil seed rape plant taken within about 100 meters from my bee hive. There are several acres of the plant nearby and it has started flowering early this year. It usually continues flowering until the end of May so the bees should have sufficient time to build up numbers and visit the crop whilst still in flower.

If the weather holds as it is, and no more night frosts are in the foreseeable forecast, and the bees keep developing I may have a strong active hive within a few weeks time. Fingers crossed again.