Early Spring is an anxious time for a beekeeper. As I do not feed the bees sugar or apply any chemicals to control Varroa mite, I am relying on the bees having collected enough food in the Autumn and being able to survive until the first flowers of Spring. It is great to see them collect orange pollen from the first snowdrops, followed a few weeks later by an abundance of yellow willow pollen. From observing this, I know that the queen has started laying again and that soon the population will be increasing after feeding off these fresh stores. This puts a pressure on the colony and often, while rejoicing that they have survived, it can be sad to see life dwindle at the entrance and the colony fail due to lack of honey.
I don’t open the hive but it is possible to put an ear to the entrance hole and hear the murmur of life within. This year all my hives survived as well as the dozen wild colonies which live in cavities in roofs, old chimneys and trees around my village.
I wait until April to remove the base of the hive and look up to see how the bees are faring. On the video below you can see that the bees are already building new comb. It is an awesome sight. There wasn’t a loss of heat or pheromone and I was able to put my head right up to the hole and film without any bees getting aggressive.
I couldn’t see any signs of condensation and the base board was dry. A few Varroa mite could be seen, but the majority of debris was wax scales which had been dropped by the bees. It will be interesting to see whether they have been picked up on the next inspection.
Here is a short clip in real time of a swarm moving into a hive. I had set the hive in an ash tree approximately 5m above the ground at the beginning of April. Nothing happened until July… two days after I had put some more lemon grass oil in the entrance.
This swarm moved into the hive mid-July. I revisited in early October and was amazed by what I saw. As it was so late in the season, I wasn’t expecting to see much growth, but the colony had now expanded to half of the hive.
I hope many people will come to Art in Action this year in Oxford.After 40 years It is their last year.
The Natural Beekeeping Trust will be there and I am delighted to have been asked join them with my log and Freedom hives. I have had amazing results this year with the bees choosing to move in to the hives . The scouts have shown a preference for these hives over other designs.
Normally at this time of year, there would be a lot of activity at the hive entrance as the bees would be enjoying the Spring nectar flow, and the population would be growing fast. Not this year. As for the last few months it has been unusually cold and windy which has kept a lot of the bees inside. I do not supplementary feed the bees, so only the strongest colonies survive.I removed the base to look up and could see a small group of bees between the combs. It was also re-assuring to see bees bringing pollen back so hopefully they will be OK.
The base board was quite dry with a few dead bees. It looks like one or two show signs of DWV but I could only see one or two Varroa mites. Wax cappings are visible as well as pollen and a few ants.
Autumn update 2016
The bees did survive the cold late Spring and when I open the base again in October, it was a relief to see how well they had done.
This Post follows the natural growth of a colony inside a log and any other observations.
1st June 2015
The swarm was a strong local swarm of dark bees. After bringing them back to the log at dusk they rested overnight and the bees were introduced to the log early the next morning. The main part of cluster was put into the top, where it fell on to some newspaper pinned to the top spales. This prevented them all dropping to bottom with the possibility of damaging the queen.