Meeting the neighbours

From Simon's beekeeping blog. Comments are welcome via email.


A seventeenth-century saying goes "a swarm in May is worth a load of hay; a swarm in June is worth a silver spoon; but a swarm in July is not worth a fly."

Well, you could have fooled us. Today's inspection, at half past eight on a nice sunny morning, was the first time I'd inspected hives with Dave. We're pretty happy with what we saw. The queen was seen on both of the colonies, as well as lots of honey stores being built up, and no obvious signs of pests or disease. Dave and D's colony has all the signs of a good start — eggs, stores and a bit of pollen. There are more bees in this newer colony and Dave remarked that the frames felt heavy.

Seeing the (unmarked) queen on the colony I'm looking after is a relief, though last week I saw a hundred or so eggs so I wasn't too concerned. Since then those eggs have developed, and there is now a lot of biscuity capped brood, surrounded by pollen, surrounded by a lot of pale honey stores in the familiar pattern. I could also see quite a few larvae developing.

Last week I noticed that the bees had decided to build to one side of the hive. Dave's hive is the same configuration as mine — cold way — and his bees are starting from the north side of the hive too. The other weird thing last week was the irregular comb. They've built this out even further in the past week, almost appearing like it's a bit overloaded, appearing to bridge a little between frames occasionally. However, there's a good corridor of bee space between each, so I'm sure they know what they're doing. I noticed quite a lot of propolis too, and had to use the hive tool for the first time to crack apart sections of the hive. Another look at the bottom board, mostly covered in wax flakes and a few dead bees, doesn't suggest (yet) that there's a big Varroa problem in either colony.

D has a theory that her colony have more natural, wilder, foraging behaviour, having left their sugar syrup alone and seen feeding on the nearby hedgerows. We'd left a total of 1350ml of sugar syrup for mine, but the hivewarming present is over now and so I removed the feeder. Time will tell whether they go out foraging on the hedge, but the muddy yellow blackberry pollen here and there on the comb suggests they have been out a bit already.

After we'd put out the smoker and talked about all we'd seen, we all headed off to spend the day exploring the area around Wills Neck on the Quantocks, which reminded me why I love living in Somerset.

Queen seen?Queen cellsBrood# available frames for broodHealthEstimated mitesTemper / docilityFeed given# supers addedWeather
C10l80019°C ☀