Wednesday, 28 April 2010

We have lift off

I headed to the apiary today. 22celcius. Sunny intervals. The site looking lovely in its spring finery.

I'm trying to go for more of a defined format for today's inspection report so I can compare these reports better through time to show me how things are going.

Amidala Hive

Config: stand, mesh floor, deep brood box, queen excluder, brood box, super, glass crown board (see picture), roof.

Inspection: 2 frames of brood in the new deep brood box, eggs even laid on barely drawn comb, queen seen with her green dot nearly warn off. Old brood box (above queen excluder) one third full of honey, couple of drone brood cells. Super packed with honey - only 1-2 frames not full. No queen cells seen.

Comments: This queen's prolific laying continues. I just wish her entourage would drawn the comb fast enough for her to lay in, rather than forage and stuff the super with honey though this is nice to see. The old brood box which lies above the queen excluder is now empty of brood save a few small groups of nearly ready drone brood. Honey in this box was all around the edges of frames where it had been when the brood was present, the central cells being empty. In the new deep box things are looking good, except to see the eggs laid in barely ready cells. Steady on queenie! A single standard depth frame is still in the box which will make things messy over time so I'm moving it to this frame to the edge of the box: at each inspection I intend to move a frame from the front of the box to the back and shift the others up. I will do this rather than doing a brood-splitting type exercise since it seems gentler and I've shunted this colony around quite enough this year, thank you. Do I put a new super on? Yes I will do this at the next inspection. Why not do it now? Although the current upper super is full, I reason that the bees have lots of space to store honey in the old brood box and also lots of work to do drawing comb in the new brood box.

To do: respot queen - white this time so I can actually see it with my dodgy colour vision! Put on a new super during the next inspection.

Boudicca Hive

Config: stand, mesh floor, brood box, queen excluder, super, crown board, roof.

Inspection: Good amount of brood, honey and pollen in the brood box, though not much on outer few frames. Eggs, larva and queen all seen. A few patches of honey in the centre frames in the super, tended by a smallish group of bees. No queen cells seen.

Comments: Continues to be much weaker than Amidala Hive, but stronger than I had expected, and good to see the super starting to be put into use. I had considered introducing a few frames of brood from Amidala into Boudicca, but have decided against this for the time being to see how the latter does on its own. As ever, the bees in Boudicca were far more aggressive than their goodie-two-shoes neighbours, but I can't honestly say that even these bees presented much of a problem. Certainly a few were buzzing around me in an "oi what's going on here" fashion, but there were few flying into me and none followed me after the inspection.

To do: nothing.

Oh, and below is a random picture of my kids which I took on my recent volcano-extended trip to Spain. They're looking so happy since their cousin had just crept up behind me and was making faces.

Oh, and lastly some other news is that this morning I did my honey bee presentation to the 200 pupils at the school where my kids go. The children were ages 4-12. The talk went really well. I entered from the back of the audience with lit smoker amply applied as I moved through the crowd, all to Rimshy Korsakov's "Flight of the Bumblebee" blaring from the stereo (OK, OK, so it's not the right insect, but it's a fine piece of music and I don't know any honey bee tunes). I gave the same talk as I had previously at another school in January. This involved several videos, a presentation with lots of pictures, a hive (without bees) and a dead varroa ("monster mite") stuck to the middle of a sheet of paper and held up by one of the children. I was also asked loads of questions, and even managed to answer most of them! I'm looking forward to doing more talks to other schools, though have none currently lined up.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Marooned by an Icelandic volcano

I just got back to the UK from Spain 7 days late since European flights were severely disrupted by ash clouds from an Icelandic volcano. Just bizarre. Anyway, it's put back the hive inspections I was hoping for. I'll be hurrying on site at the first sign of decent weather to see how they are doing.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Deep national brood box installed

I took advantage of the unusually warm 16celcius out today and headed to the apiary to swap the deep national brood box onto Hive Amidala. I was nervous about how it would work out. Here was the plan: to add the deep brood box to the bottom of the hive with the old brood box above the queen excluder (and a super above that - rather big for this stage in the season, but I already had the super on). To execute the plan I could have tried to shake all the bees into the deep brood box, but I decided this was too disruptive, so instead here's what I did. I set a crown board on the ground next to the hive and put the empty deep brood box on top, removing one of the freshly made up frames. Then I opened the hive (it was looking great in there - the super was half full of working bees which I immediately spied though my new swanky glass crown board) until the old brood box was exposed. I then inspected the frames (middle ones only) looking for the queen. I saw lots of honey, lots of pollen, and eggs and larvae in all stages of development. It looks as if this colony is as vigorous this year as last. However, I failed to spot the queen on the first pass. On the 4th frame of the second pass I spotted her and quickly put that frame into the deep super and covered it with a queen excluder. Got her! Of course the bees will make a mess below this shorter-than-box frame, but I can deal with that in subsequent weeks and migrate this frame to the sides and out. I then quickly lifted the old brood box off the stand, whacked the deep brood box (queen and all) onto the stand and quickly followed with queen excluder, old brood box, super, glass crown board and roof. Done. And there's the photo to prove it. I'm pretty happy with how that all went and with the general health of the colony. I'm looking forward to inspecting progress in a week or so, by which time I hope the bees will have drawn a decent amount of comb in the new brood box, and perhaps the queen will have started laying. Fingers crossed. Will this also reduce any swarming instinct? I do not know.

I also took some time to open Hive Boudicca. This colony is at the other end of the vigour scale from its neighbour. The super was empty, and the brood box (standard depth) had a fair few bees but only on the middle 5/6 frames. I saw the queen, larvae both capped and uncapped and a fair supply of honey and pollen. Am I concerned? I just don't know. Hive Boudicca is way behind Hive Amidala, but it's still early in the season. Worth keeping an eye on, and I should probably do a varroa count in the near future. I almost would not mind so much if Hive Boudicca's inhabitants were half as nice as their neighbours, but they are grumpy too. A more experienced beek would probably replace the queen at this stage. I'm going to keep this thought in mind......

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Beekeeping Forums

Well, I've only just stumbled on and am shocked by how active it is. Great! It seems even more so than the BBKA one

Quite why there should be two for British beekeepers? It seems silly, but someone at my association (Ealing) told me the former was set up as an "anti-BBKA" reaction following the high-profile BBKA-sponsoring-pesticide-companies issues which still rumbles on. (For ref, I think the BBKA have got it right on a tricky issue here since it's best to keep your friends close and your enemies closer.)

Anyhow, both forums are impressively busy and a good source of current beekeeping opinion, though of course most of it is just that: opinion. I'd recommend to all British beekeepers to take a look at both forums, and I'm interested whether you rate them.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

New kit

The new kit I had ordered arrived today, so I spent my time adding an eke to a brood box to make a deep National brood box, making up a super and making some deep frames. Why do they only sell these frame parts in lots of 10! It's so annoying. I run with 11 frames in the brood box so had ordered 2x10 and now have lots of spare parts. I know the foundation will not be at its freshest by next year went I may change some frames. Anyhow, I'm anxious to get the new kit into action but the weather has been cold and wet, and this looks set to continue. Fingers crossed I can employ the deep brood box as a substitute on Amidala Hive in the next week.

The observation hive / nuc I ordered looks great. Not sure when I'm going to use it, though.

Anyway, observation hive / nuc aside I've now got a fair amount of empty kit sitting in the corner of my little garden as the picture shows. Inside are 3 apidea mating nucs, my smoker and a fair few freshly made up frames of varying heights. There's a solid and a mesh floor in that stack too somewhere. You can see the eke-extended brood (deep) box in the middle.