Ralf meets the bees

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


I've been away for the weekend and come back to an almost relentlessly wet Somerset. My trip away meant that an inspection was a little overdue. Ralf (pictured) is visiting for a few days and I needed someone to help me. Ralf's initial concerns about being stung were tempered only by the desire to take a teaspoonful of honey. We weren't sure if the latter would lead to the former, but in the end neither happened. He did a great job helping with the smoker — including actually keeping it going — adding the syrup to the feeder, and videoing the whole inspection to look at later.

Despite the 30kph wind and the temperature being slightly too cold (14°C), things went very well. As well as that, we're in a period of almost consistent rainy weather for a week or two, and we had to wait for a gap in the rain, with our first trip to the apiary rained off. In the second trip, not long before sunset, we met a colony of surprisingly docile, perhaps even sleepy, bees. Docile, that is, considering the windy weather we were subjecting them to. We tried to do things at a fair pace, so no stopping for long to look for the queen, but we think we saw some eggs, meaning there was brood in all stages in the hive. There was also capped worker brood in fairly healthy numbers.

To make room for the queen to lay, last time I had inserted a new frame into the centre of those that were already there, for a total of seven frames. This (frame 4) is now being drawn out, though brood, including fat larvae, can now be found on even the original frames (e.g. frame 2) which formerly contained stores, as well as the new frames which were inserted. On these frames there were a fair amount of empty, dark, cells from which bees have recently emerged. This leaves a rather odd pattern over the structure of the colony as a whole, but that's probably to be expected given all the frame-shuffling. However, the bees are doing expansion of their own — they are expanding the other side of the the last frame, frame 7, drawing out the foundation for stores.

Talking of stores, perhaps there were slightly fewer this week, due to the rainy weather. Ralf gave them another top-up of 1.3l of 2:1 syrup (pictured, complete with embarrassingly mouldy feeder) to make up for the difficulties they'd have in foraging in all this wet weather. Strictly speaking, feeding should be completed by now in order to give the bees a chance to drive off all the excess water, so perhaps this should be the last feed. In any case, they still have a decent amount put away, as well as clear bands of pollen on even the new frames, so things look generally good.

We'd both enjoyed the inspection and headed home for dinner. When I opened my equipment bag we realised that by not checking our suits for bees, we'd picked up a hitchhiker who was now buzzing around my kitchen. More careful post-inspection checks in future, then.

Especially with the wet and rather cooler weather stretching out into the middle of next week, it's unclear when the next inspection will be, but we still have a few jobs to do on the hives for winter such as fitting mouse guards, but these can wait for the next sunny day.

Queen seen?Queen cellsBroodframefuls of stores# available frames for broodHealthEstimated mitesTemper / docilityFeed given# supers addedWeather
C10✔ 1¼f e4L91.3l 2:1014°C ☁ windy