After having had to cancel the previous inspection, a spell of warm weather enabled us to carry out our first inspection of the year and an opportunity to see how the bees had fared over the winter. In attendance today were Geoff, Penny, William, Liz, James, Paul, Milo, John V & John D.

The timing was also somewhat fortuitous. Whilst carryout a pre-check walk of the apiary, I noticed a lot of activity in the brambles behind the Hex hive (ID. Rose). A swarm was nestled on a post amongst the brambles and had obviously been there from the day before.

So once everyone had arrived, the first thing to do was to go and check it out. An ideal opportunity for some of the new beekeepers to get close up to their first swarm. We then went over to the Tree Hive (still unoccupied) to see if there were any scout bees checking it out… and there were! I thought the best course of action was to carryout the inspection and then re-visit the swarm / tree hive. (See update in summary below)

Hive Id : Rose
Type : Roseland Hex Hive – No.Supers : 3 – Insp.Aim : 1st Inspection
Decided to leave this hive as it was near to the swarm and in the flight path of the flying bees checking out the log hive. Plenty of activity out front but highly likely this was where the swarm had originated

Hive Id : Bluebell
Type: National – No.Supers: 1 B.Box + 2 supers – Insp.Aim: 1st Inspection
This was looking strong. Good brood pattern and lots of drone brood in the main brood box being built below the frames into the ‘eco floor’. Plenty of stores, so added a 3rd super to make more room. Used Cork panels on 2 sides of the hive over the winter for insulation. Put these back after the inspection with the aim of leaving them there all summer. Removed baffler from entrance hole and opened up a couple more of them by removing the cork bungs

Hive Id : Primrose
Type: Rose – No.Supers: 2 Supers – Insp.Aim: 1st Inspection.
This was again looking strong and healthy. Previously swarmed last June. Plenty of brood, larvae and eggs. Added a 3rd super to make more room. Removed baffler and opened up another entrance hole. Left exterior cork panels in situ for the summer

Hive Id : Clover
Type : Rose – No. Supers: 2 – Insp.Aim: 1st Inspection.
This colony was used for the observation hive last year. Noticeably less activity in front of the hive over the last month or so. Top super pretty much empty and about 5 frames of bees below. However some good brood pattern developing so maybe a slow starter. Spotted the marked queen who looked healthy enough. Removed baffler and opened up one more entrance hole. Again left the exterior cork panels in situe.

Hive Id : Poppy
Type: National – No.Supers: 3 Supers – Insp.Aim: 1st Inspection & Convert to Rose Hive
Top 2 supers busy with bees, brood etc. Bottom super empty. A good opportunity to introduce a new eco floor and swap to (V3) Rose Hive supers. Some of the frames will be odd sizes but they will build comb underneath into the void of the eco floor if they want. This may not be as convenient and as tidy for the beekeeper, but the bees make the most of it, probably for the overall good of the colony. Geoff did manage to spot a bee with DWV but the overall health of the colony looked good and it didn’t concern us too much.

It was great to see the Apiary thriving after a relatively mild winter. All the surrounding fauna was blossoming, and spring in full swing. The bees had found their own stores had been adequate to see them through. (No supplementary feeding was used).

The swarm was a welcome highlight of the day. It had obviously been there over night. It was nestled in a very awkward position and tempting it, or scooping, it into a skep could prove difficult. The risks of losing the queen and stressing out the cluster were high. In the end I decided to let nature take its course.

The bees were scouting out the Tree Hive all day and we could see them flying to and from the swarm site. I left the Apiary at 4.30pm and the swarm had still not decided what to do. That night the temperatures dropped to near freezing so I was praying they would decide to go at least somewhere.

When I returned the following afternoon the swarm had gone. Alas they didn’t migrate to the Tree Hive. They had obviously found somewhere more suited, probably away from other bees. This is one of apis mellifera’s natural traits, enabling them to equally share available forage and to also minimise the risks of drifting and spreading diseases.

Simon Kellam
Apiary Manager


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