Just back from a short break so yesterday was the first opportunity to visit the bees. Silly I know, but I’ve been really looking forward to seeing them, not individually you understand, but you never know what to expect when you’ve spent some time away, do you. So it’s always a feeling of relief when even from a distance, I first catch sight of my little apiaries. A quick count tells me all are present and looking much the same as when I last saw them. I can’t begin to imagine how it must feel to return to find your apiary has been vandalised or that some of your hives are missing. This happened to a friend of mine fairly recently and he tells me that he still has nightmares about it and I can fully understand why.

Taking this late break meant leaving before my bees had taken down all the syrup I’d given them which in turn has meant that it is only now that they can receive their Apiguard. So, my first visit yesterday was to Mendip “C”. From the car park I could see plenty of activity around the hive entrances, always a good sign. While I was suiting up Bob appeared pushing a barrow of cooking apples, needless to say I didn’t need much persuading to accept a bag-full. “Bees are in a good mood, I was able to mow all around the hives the other evening, not one came anywhere near me”. Just the sort of news I’ve been waiting to hear. “Must see me as one of the family at last”, his parting words as he made off for more apples.

So, suit on and apples safely in the car, I made my way up to the bees. Bob was right, the bees were exceptionally good humoured, it may have been because they’d missed me and were glad to see me back, but I doubt it. The activity around the hive entrances suggested there was some sort of flow on, I’ve no idea, but there was certainly copious amounts of pollen going in. So, to hive one, roof and crown board off to reveal Adams feeder full of bees busily licking off the last gleanings of sugar syrup. Just a case of removing the feeder, shaking off the bees and laying a tray of Apiguard above the frames in the brood box. The feeder, now inverted and doubling as an eke then goes back on. Block the access hole, replace the roof, then, apart from fitting the floor slides, it’s job done. Exactly the same with the other two hives, total time, less than twenty minutes.

When the feeding and Varroa treatment is finished, the feeders will be left on the hives, right way up, with a little square of mesh covering the access holes, where they will double as crown boards. I have done this ever since I have had enough feeders for all the hives and apart from not having to mess about with ekes and different methods of feeding, there are, to my way of thinking, other benefits. For a start, the feeders are already on the hives if you need to give a Spring feed, and also, it is my firm belief that the bees benefit from the volume of still air trapped between the feeder and the roof, both in helping maintain the cluster temperature and reducing condensation. I first tried this when I only had a couple of Adams feeders and, convinced of the benefits, I have, over time, made more feeders so that I am now at the stage where I can treat all of my hives in a similar fashion. When the Winter has sufficiently receded and it’s time for the supers to go on the feeders will come off for re-painting and whatever other TLC is required before going into store until they’re needed again.

And on to the meadow where glad to say, the story was much the same. With the exception of hive one, which houses one of my this year’s nuc’s, the same frenetic activity. Even with all the entrances reduced, especially the new hives and nuc’s which are reduced to one bee-space, the wasps, being born opportunists, have been quick to detect the most vulnerable and in this case, it looks as though hive one has borne the brunt of their attentions. From their appearance when I lifted the roof, they were still quite strong in bees and I left them with a tray of fondant to help them out. I’ll have a good look at them later in the week. I had intended to give all of the hives their Apiguard but with the weather closing in, I decided to put that off for another day. The forecast for the rest of the week looks promising so fingers crossed. I did however, take a quick look below each roof, a look which told me that all of the syrup they had been left with had been taken down. No need for a smoker as, because, as another benefit of the Adams feeder is that they allow checking without disturbing the bees, they were totally unaware of my presence.

The activity around the two colonies which were left in the process of uniting, made it difficult to distinguish them from the others, so it looks as though that exercise went to plan. That then is now the other job planned for this week, to get them each on to one brood box.

A couple of days on and back at the meadow things are still looking good with the possible exception of the mating nuc. One side has gone from strength to strength while the other looked to be really struggling. A quick look confirmed why. No brood and very few bees, certainly a lot fewer than the last time I’d looked. The queen which had been a bit on the small side was nowhere to be seen. I decided the best course of action was to unite the two sides and this I did by closing the entrance on the poor side and removing the dividing board. I watched as the bees mingled to see whether there would be any signs of aggression but all seemed peaceful enough. I imagine the reason for this is because, with only a thin dividing board between the two colonies, the odour of both must be very similar, anyway, as I said, they all seemed happy enough with the new situation so I left them to it. I’m certain that the stronger side will feel the benefit of having more space as they had completely filled their five frames with brood and stores. Following on from that, one thing that has been really noticeable, and this appears to be the case with all of the colonies, is that there has been no noticeable reduction in brood production, or of drones for that matter. All of the queens seem to be going flat out in fact it’s as though they’ve building up for this moment. Maybe it’s my imagination but the colonies appear stronger now than at any time this season. As I said, probably my imagination but it will be interesting to see how the next month pans out.

One of the two colonies which we united is now on one brood chamber while, the other, I’ve left on brood and a half, their original state.The reason being that there was an abundance of brood in both boxes, too much to cram into one. Both queens have been laying well with a good proportion of unsealed brood in both hives. I’m sure in my mind that neither colony will have any problems over-wintering and I’m really pleased that I took the decision to unite

Into the last week of September now and things are continuing to look good. The wasps show little signs of abating so I’ve been keeping the traps topped up, I’ve still got all the entrances reduced and the bees seem to be coping ok. The weather hasn’t been brilliant these last few days but with the promise of patchy sunshine this afternoon, I’m hopeful of giving them all their final top-up of syrup. Barring any unforeseen catastrophes, that will be the last time the roofs come off until they get their oxalic acid after Christmas.