Spring update

The last month has kept us busy with the hives. But the bees have been working a lot more than us…

We have managed to sell one hive of bees after initially giving away half to a neighbour who has started beekeeping this year. His nuc (small box of bees with a queen) was late in arriving so Michel was very pleased to receive our full box of brood and bees to start the season. The other half that was sold has helped us out to buy a honey extractor. This has already made light work of the first 25 pound of mixed seasonal honey that we have taken two weeks ago. It will help the bees also by allowing them to fill honey cells directly instead of having to build up wax on each scraped panel. The spring has been very good so far with ample blossom and flowers to reward the colonies. At the moment we have the clover flowers out in full bloom and with a day of showers every week it should help us obtain a good harvest of honey. We remain positive by buying extra jars…

Cherry apple blossom in full bloom

Cherry apple blossom in full bloom

Last week I made a split off one hive to prevent a swarm. The population had increased very well, too early for the clover that was not quite out in flower (see below). It was also insurance on my part to make another queen as a back-up in case one of the hives swarmed on their own. If it did and we lost it, we would already have a replacement queen available. This new hive has already made several replacement queen cells. Once the first queen appears, she will sting and kill off the others before they hatch. Only then will she take her mating flight with drones and return to start laying her first eggs. Hopefully she will be as quiet and placid as our queen in #1 hive which we managed to sight last week. Our first view of any of our queens in nearly a year. In the photos below you will notice the empty cells, cleaned and prepared awaiting the arrival of new eggs. Those eggs will hatch 21 days later and replace the bees that have died off during this queen-less period.

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New replacement queen cells

Although we do not actively look for the queen we know all is well by the continual eggs being layed and the fresh larvae that arrives. We had marked our queens last year to help site them but the paint has gone and so has the youth of the beekeeper, even with glasses. By pure luck we found the best queen of the bunch. (Click on all images for a larger view.)

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Mites have been found again this year, however we are busy keeping the numbers down by having a large number of drone larvae built on separate panels. A happy visitor in the photo below shows the drone cells at the bottom part of the panel with a small section at the top, which remains for honey. The mites prefer to lay their eggs in the drone larvae and by cutting out this larvae before they hatch we can control both the drone and mite numbers. So far this has worked well for us and will continue until we give a complete treatment for mites at the end of summer.

Drone cells

Drone cells

Varroa mite in drone larvae.

Varroa mite in drone larvae.

Photo credits: N.Paul

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