Stocking up for winter

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


Dave and I spent an hour inspecting this morning. It is idyllic — just us and the bees, the sun in the sky, the smoke wafting out of the smoker, with horses walking by, interrupted only by the occasional falconry drone. It's very easy to get in the zone when inspecting, kind of a mixture of being relaxed and also very focussed on the comb.

So, the status report from Colony One, still operating on 4½ frames with lots of tidy comb. My focus this time was on checking on the forming queen cells I'd seen, and wondering if my colony were going to get a new queen. The raised cell that we thought was a supersedure cell is no longer there. Maybe it was the beginnings of a queen cup that was later abandoned. It couldn't have held any egg at that point, anyway. There were no signs of chalk brook or bald brood this time. The varroa seems to be low in this colony too. The bees look healthy and were pretty relaxed (until we shook them off the frames).

There is brood of both types, flat worker and raised drone, and big plump white pupae all over the place, in the familiar pattern, nicely tight and compact. I did see some eggs, but not as many as I'd like. Over in Dave's colony, we tried hard for several minutes to find either the queen or some eggs, but to no avail. In both cases, and especially in Dave's, the central brood area is jam-packed with capped brood and grubs over maybe two or three frames in each case, and perhaps there's simply no room for the new eggs. Definitely something to look for in the next inspection, and ask some more experience beekeepers about.

We were both concerned about the lack of eggs and having not seen a queen. The other concern was the quantity of winter stores. Dave remarked at how from the weight of the frame, the quantity of stores and perhaps the general population felt as though it had reduced since the last inspection. When he'd lifted them out, we didn't see more than perhaps a frameful, along with a general reduction in the amount of comb being built. Dave had brought along some Candipolline Gold and left 500g of it to help with the stores. My bees have a bit more but I think I'll be starting feeding earlier and throughout September, just as Thomas had advised.

I continue to love looking at pollen. The bee bread in my colony is a dull grey but in Dave's there's some beautifully bright orange stuff in the familiar rings around the brood, as well as on the bees' corbiculae (pollen baskets). Apparently some people cook with bee bread. Anyway, we also saw a couple of times bees with their proboscises together, transferring food to each other (trophallaxis).

We both said we need to get better at finding the queen, though I suspect we see her retinue often and don't think to look for the queen among them. Maybe there's an online practice site we can visit or even create — I've found an online photo album and even a book so far. Maybe we should just mark her the next time we see her, but since she's from a swarm, I wonder which year's colour she'd need to be marked with.

I've realised that I need to make a couple of changes with my record-keeping, specifically recording the number of frames on which I saw brood and recording stores by summing up both the total stores on all frames. The fact that I've seen 4½ frames all along on which there were some stores, is useless in situations like today when I want to know whether the total quantity of stores is going up or down. So from now on, I'll report the sum of the stores, and use the letter 's' to mean the number of frames used solely for stores, for example in a super.

Queen seen?Queen cellsBroodframefuls of stores# available frames for broodHealthEstimated mitesTemper / docilityFeed given# supers addedWeather
C10✔ 20e2l80019°C ☀