Well into February now and things are finally beginning to look up. With the evenings and mornings starting to lengthen and sunny spells becoming the norm rather than the exception, I’m beginning to detect a definite air of expectation around the apiaries. A brief look below the crown boards on the warmest days, shows the bees have briefly broken cluster and are eagerly going about their business. All this plus the pollen being collected suggests the queens are beginning to lay, always a good sign that Spring is just around the corner. I don’t spend any longer than necessary with these early inspections and haven’t yet removed any frames. I did have time to take a couple of pics which I’ll share with you.
BELOW THE CROWN BOARD ON ONE OF THE MENDIP “C” HIVES
AND ONE OF THE NUC’S.
One or two of the bees came out to see who had had the audacity to disturb them but were very placid gathering around the hive entrances, queuing to go back, in as soon as I’d replaced the roofs.
With our colony numbers sadly depleted my prime objective this year will be the production of nuc’s with which to re-populate the empty hives. Once again, I intend to use The Cloake Board method to achieve this. Although there are many other tried and tested methods of queen rearing, this one particularly appeals to me and although I’ve had only limited success in the past, mainly due to my poor grafting skills, I intend to persevere with it. Since my last attempt I’ve acquired new custom made glasses and am hopeful that they will be the difference between success and failure. Any of you familiar with the Cloake Board method of queen rearing will know that ideally you will have had your intended nursery colony over-wintered on double brood. The colony I intend to use over-wintered on brood and a half so my first task will be to get them off that and onto double brood as soon as conditions permit. The reason they were on brood and a half is that with the exception of hive 3, all of my bees in 14×12″ hives. Not having another standard brood box available at the time, I had no option other than to add a super to give them the additional space they required..
HIVE THREE CONFIGURED BROOD AND A HALF
I now have a standard brood box filled with drawn comb which as I said, I’ll get onto three as soon as possible
Not much to report this month. A bout of food poisoning after Christmas pretty much kept me confined to the house until well past the middle of the month. Although I was happy with the stores situation in all of the hives going into Winter I decided to give them all a portion of fondant at the first opportunity and that wasn’t until half way through the third week. The weather for the first half of the month had been pretty grim but the morning of the 23rd looked quite promising so, armed with my fondant, I had already cut it into portions before leaving the house, I made my way to Mendip “C”. With the exception of hive one, there was quite a lot of activity at the entrances, so it was to one that I went first. Although hive one compared well with the others going into Winter, it was noticeable that the wasps were paying it a lot more attention than the others. Even with the entrance restricted down to one bee-space, the occupants seemed unable to keep the wasps out. As I said, hive one had plenty of stores and the numbers of bees compared well with the others but somehow the wasps had been able to detect a weakness with the colony and had obviously persisted with their attentions until they had weakened the colony beyond the point of collapse. The other hives and the two nuc’s. all looked in fine form. I only had the crown boards off for a moment but long enough to see plenty of bees clustering between the frames. I gave them all their fondant , boxed them up, and made my way back to the car. The sun had, by now, disappeared and with rain in the air, I decided to leave the meadow for another day and made my way home.
The weather for the next couple of days was pretty grim so it was nearly a week later that I was able to visit the meadow. Sadly, it was a similar picture there with one colony failing to over-winter. Like the colony at “C”, they had gone into Winter with plenty of bees and had emptied the Adams feeder full of syrup that they had received, this in addition to their own stores that they had already put down. It always saddens me to lose a colony, we try so hard to make sure that they are comfortable and well prepared for Winter.
As soon as the weather permits I shall strip both hives. Whenever a colony fails I strip out all the frames which then have the comb removed for burning, before being scalded. The boxes are then scorched before receiving a coat of Cuprinol. This will be the case with both of these hives but not before hopefully, they have been able to shed some light on why they failed.
“It’ll soon be Christmas”. Whenever I hear that and no doubt it’s a phrase that we shall all hear more than once between now and 25th, my first thoughts are always, where the hell did that year go. I don’t know whether it’s being retired or whether it’s just an age thing, but the time certainly seems to fly by at an alarming rate. Goodness where I’d be without my bees. Even though there is little to be done at this time of year, I still try to pay them a visit as often as the weather permits. As I said, there’s little to be done but it sets my mind at ease to see that none of the hives have been dislodged or have been visited by the local family of green woodpeckers. Fortunately the wasps finally have departed the scene but with the hive entrances still restricted, and the mouse guards fitted, I like to check that the bees are still able to come and go should they wish. Occasionally I find a couple of dead bees blocking the entrance and these are easily dislodged with a thin twig or piece of grass stem. Also as I walk along the row of hives, I pause to place my hand on each hive roof for a second or two, it’s surprising the difference in temperature between the roof of a healthy hive and an empty one. So, barring any unforeseen catastrophes, that will be the pattern of events until I see the first bees flying come Spring. Sometime after Christmas they will all receive a dousing of Oxalic Acid. It’s about this time when I begin gently hefting the hives, about once a week, and I have a box of fondant standing by should any of them feel a bit light. I have a couple of talks and demonstrations on candle making with a local Scout and Cub group booked for next week and I’m looking forward to that. So, that’s about it for another year.
Thank you for accompanying me through another year and for your kind comments. I hope you’ve all had a successful season and look forward to your thoughts and company in 2018. So, until then, I wish you all LOTS OF LOVE AND A VERY HAPPY CHRISTMAS.