The last couple of weeks of March came and went without much to report, the weather was changeable, to say the least, but I did manage to finish changing the floors. The two mating nuc’s.that I had hived were showing plenty of activity and I had bought another extended brood box so the third new hive was now ready and waiting. So on to April. This first week has seen the best weather of the year so far. I’ve been able to hive the third nuc. and have had a look in all the other hives, with mixed results, I have to say. The activity outside all but one of the hives suggested that they were all coming along at a similar pace but my inspection confirmed that this wasn’t the case. In three of the hives there wasn’t a sign of brood although, strangely, there was an abundance of bees in all of them. One was showing signs of irritability, an indication that they are in fact queenless but the other two took little or no interest in me. I have had instances before of queens which were later in starting to lay than their neighbours so I’ve boxed them all back up and will give them a couple more weeks to see what happens. I can’t re-queen them at the moment, even if I want to, as the new queens that over-wintered in my mating nuc’s. are now in the new hives and destined for the new site.
NUC’S NOW HIVED AND DESTINED FOR THE NEW SITE.
Sod’s law at it’s finest, innit! Anyway, I did manage to get supers onto three of the hives. It is disappointing though when, having made sure that all of your colonies are of similar strength going into Winter, making sure all of your hives are dry and secure, they all have an abundance of stores and queens of similar pedigree, some still don’t manage to over-winter. Changing the floors hadn’t thrown up any shocks, the hive with the greatest drop had gone into Winter the strongest so I wasn’t unduly surprised at that and they had emerged the strongest. Maybe the next inspection will show that the missing queens weren’t in fact absent, but just hiding. I hope so but it does worry me that it continues to happen with no obvious reason.
Talking of the new site, I’ve installed the new stand and I’m quite pleased with the results. More importantly, so are the owners of the site.
NEW STAND FIRMLY IN PLACE.
They are both very nice people and have made me feel very welcome, even making the corner of one of the stables available to me to house the spare kit in. I’ve high hopes that this is going to prove a very pleasant relationship, it’s certainly got all the makings. The resident pheasant made me feel welcome, even giving me a friendly peck just to prove it.
GIVE ME A MINUTE, I’M JUST DECIDING WHICH BIT TO PECK.
So, there we are, nothing too exciting but all moving along in the right direction (I hope).
Half way through the month now and the middle of a very warm spell. I plan to move the two remaining hives to the new site this evening. The first seems to be settling in very well. I was a little concerned at first as the distance from Mendip is a little under three miles and that isn’t as the crow flies, but by road. I half expected to find half of the occupants waiting for me at the meadow the next day but so far, glad to say, no sign of any returnees. So, as I said, this evening all being well, they’ll be joined by the other two. I’m going to have another look at the three hives which as I mentioned earlier, are exhibiting signs of queenlessness. I’m not sure what to do with them yet if they are in fact, queenless. Whether it is too early to give them a frame of brood to draw out another queen, I’m not sure. At my last visit there only seemed to be one or two drones in evidence and there’s no point in them drawing out a new queen if there aren’t the drones to mate her, especially at the expense of the other colonies who look to be building up nicely. To my way of thinking, all of this, goes to emphasize the importance of having a successful queen rearing programme in operation, but my last year’s queens are destined for the new site so no point dwelling on that, is there.
A week on from my last inspection and it’s been quite a good one. All three hives are now at the new site.
MENDIP “C”, THE NEW SITE.
They were all delivered quite late in the day so as to have most, if not all, of the flying bees back in the hives, then a quick matter to insert a piece of foam rubber into the entrance and then into the car. It’s no more than ten minutes by car to the new site and I think we were probably there before the bees realised that they’d been moved. No bees attempted to leave the entrance as I removed the foam and there was no discernable noise from within. I can’t recommend highly enough the use of hive fasteners. Anyone who has experienced a hive coming apart whilst attempting to move it, and having a shed load of disgruntled bees forcefully asking the question, “why the **** are we being moved”, especially in the back of the car, will surely wish they’d fitted them sooner, I know I did!
I visited the new site on each of the mornings following the moves and was pleased to see plenty of activity in front of the hives on each occasion. There appeared to be plenty of bees flying but not seeming to be going anywhere. They seemed in the main to be bobbing up and down in front of the hives, in rather the same fashion as when there is a robbing spree taking place. As I watched, they would slowly break off and circle the hive, the circles gradually getting larger. It occured to me after a while, that these must be orienteering flights, they were getting the bearings of the new site. A couple of days later and they were coming and going quite naturally so I guess that that was what was happening, strange, I’d never seen that before, but it is said that you learn something new every day, isn’t it.
I decided to go ahead and re-distribute some of the frames of brood so that the three hives that needed a helping hand have now had it. I was prompted by the fact that the number of drones present seems to have doubled since my last visit, that and the fact that I didn’t want to lose any colonies without at least making some effort to save them. I always feel that I’m between a rock and a hard place when faced with a decision like this. Natural selection would dictate that the weeker colonies should be left to take their chances and that it is folly to compromise the strong in an effort to prop them up. I’m sure that this is probably the most sensible approach and in a couple of weeks time when they are all struggling I’ll be wishing I’d taken that route. It’s just that I can’t help feeling that they’re probably in the position they find themselves in, because of something I have or haven’t done and as such, are entitled to my help.
A week on and time for another inspection and as with so many things in nature, the strong are getting stronger and the weak, weaker. Of the three colonies that received help, only one seems to be responding, and not too brilliantly at that, it has to be said. On top of that, the queen in nine, which was united at the end of last Summer with one of the nuc’s., has decided to become a drone layer. So, that is the position going into May, I have three colonies which need re-queening and at the moment, because I chose to sacrifice my mating nuc’s. to populate the new Mendip C. site, I have no spare queens. Add to that, at the new site, hive one is now in the process of superseding although, glad to say, the other two are looking good. All of this suggests to me that for some reason, last year’s queens were poorly mated. I selected my two best colonies, or so I thought, to supply my queens, and followed the same procedure that I have used in previous years. Of the six nuc’s., one failed to come through the Winter, one has become a drone layer and the other is in the process of superseding, so poor mating is the only possible cause that I can bring to mind at the moment. One good thing though, is that hive two at the new site is coming on like a house on fire and at this moment looks to be an ideal candidate to supply this year’s crop of queens. I know it’s early days yet and not wishing to tempt fate any further, I’ll say no more for the moment.
Last weekend we at Mendip Beekeepers Assc.had our first open apiary meeting. I always look forward to these get-togethers, it’s a chance to renew old aquaintances and compare notes etc. Unusually, this meeting was re-asigned to a different venue at the last moment as two of the three colonies at the original site were “looking a bit poorly” as the owner’s lady beekeeper put it. It was also quite obvious that some of the colonies at the apiary that we did visit hadn’t over-wintered as well as they might have.
SOME OF THE COLONIES WERE IN PRETTY POOR SHAPE
This left me wondering, was it just my bees that were suffering or was there something more general which was affecting our bees. It’s a question that I’ll certainly be raising at our next society meeting.