The first inspection of 2020

Defra, the Scottish Government and the Welsh Government have expanded its official advice to beekeepers during the COVID-19 pandemic (also in Welsh).

The advice urges the use of husbandry techniques to avoid swarming, as well as not compromising the care of animals. I can imagine how welcome a swarm of bees would be in the house of someone who is isolating at the moment... I was planning to leave my first inspection until after the three week COVID-19 lockdown, even though I haven't (yet) come down with the virus — of course in this case there's strictly no beekeeping at all. However, looking at the trends, I doubt that it'll all be over in a week's time. With the official advice in mind during what is swarming season, I thought it best to walk over to the apiary and take a look.

I suppose it's just that spring is here, but the walk over made me feel like the animals were enjoying the world with a bit less human activity. The weather was clear and the temperature at a warm 19°C. Bees were going from dandelion to dandelion and the natural world was busy.

Opening up the hive for the first time in nearly six months, things looked very good. The bees had been working with the seven northmost frames as when we last saw them, and so they had not expanded at all over winter, only just starting on an eighth frame. I'm not sure whether that means the frames we inserted last year was necessary or not, but they are certainly using the space — compared to when I took a bit of their honey for the pollen workshop, there is now a lot of brood on the frames. I didn't see the queen, but I didn't need to, because the brood is there in evey stage, from tiny egg to emerging bees. On some frames the brood appears to have a 'target' pattern, with concentric rings of capped and open brood — very systematic. Among all this was a good amount of multi-coloured pollen on most frames.

Characteristically, the comb was everywhere, including through the crownboard hole leading to an empty bag of ApiCandy. They don't like Candipolline Gold at all! I left them another kilogram of ApiCandy in case the weather should suddenly turn or whatever — it can't do any harm even though it's a bit late in the year to be feeding them I suppose. The messy comb was often full of sticky nectar, and a few of the frames felt heavy as I lifted them out. These bees have a pretty strong colony now, at least compared to when they first arrived.

There was no sign of swarming — plenty of room for them to expand and no queen cells being formed. I couldn't see any sign of disease or pests either. I saw what I thought was a pattern of chains of adjacent open cells, but it looked nothing like wax moth damage. I think I was imagining things.

On top of all this, the bees were really relaxed. Colony 1 has had a reputation for being the grumpy colony, but this time they seemed very gentle. I hope this means that the emergency queen has been replaced with a new queen, and they're 'happier' as a result. I removed the mouse guard and felt really happy with the inspection too. I'd like to have taken some pictures but my thick nitrile gloves don't seem compatible with my iPhone's screen, so I'll try to bring a camera along next time.

All of this was a very nice surprise. A passerby could hear me loudly marvelling at all I was seeing enough to have a quick chat. Later, another local beekeeper stopped to say hello. Gary had been keeping bees for several years and it was nice to have someone else who is as fascinated by bees as I am to share the happy news with.

Colony ID
Queen seen?
Queen cells
Brood
Framefuls of stores
Frames available for brood
Health
Estimated mites
Temper / docility
Feed given
Treatment given
Supers added
Weather
C1✔ 3f? e3½f?4½fL101kg ApiCandy019°C ☀