It's getting darker earlier so inspection times have moved back (where possible) to mid-afternoon. Today the bees were busy foraging with plenty of activity in front of the hive. When Dan puffed a couple of puffs of smoke to let them know we were coming in, they dispersed quickly and seemed perhaps a bit agitated (though 'agitated for our bees is good-natured in any other colony). We had given them the first dose of Apiguard a week before, most of which we found out later had been three-quarters consumed. On the packet of Apiguard there's a warning of agitation so we weren't really surprised.
However, opening up the hive there was a surprise. The sugar syrup we had left them last week had barely been touched. Furthermore, there were no bees in the feeder. We couldn't work out why. Some theories:
- When I cleaned the feeder I hadn't rinsed it off (I had);
- The bees didn't like being carried on the feeder last week and shaken off it, and had somehow left a pheromonal message on the feeder that made them avoid it (a bit far-fetched);
- The bees had built some comb on the queen excluder directly below and it was partially blocking access to the feeder (maybe);
- The weather has been so nice this week that they prefer natural food to Tate and Lyle (why not both?);
- The syrup had fermented (it can't have got that hot and the bees seemed happy to try the syrup once they had found it);
- The Apiguard being everywhere had somehow tainted the syrup or otherwise put them off feeding (does this happen?);
- They have decided they enough stores already (there are five full frames of stores in the hive now);
- Stop trying to analyse bee colonies using human logic.
If any of the beekeepers out there in the vast audience that this blog attracts has any idea, please drop me a line.
So my jar of sugar came home with me. Midweek, I'll open up the roof and see whether us removing comb from the queen excluder and resituating the feeder has helped. Next Monday will be their second dose of the Apiguard. We're thinking of delaying it by a week or omitting it completely, especially given the low levels of varroa we've seen so far. But really, we should see the treatments through using the manufacturer's recommendation. Apiguard clearly bothers the bees a little, but our main responsibility as beekeepers is disease management, and thinking back to last year, prevention is better (and a lot easier) than cure.
From the hive records I can see tha stores are up and, possibly, laying is down. Up until today the records have been pretty scrappy and full of guesswork. Today Dan actually noted down the amount of brood and stores on each frame with a pen. Now we have accurate numbers. And Dan has plans to develop a streamlined and detailed hive inspection form. From hearing its basic principles, I think we can expect much better hive records in 2022.