First Spring check

It was the first proper warm day of spring yesterday so I was able to get in to my hives, and also transfer a colony over from a WBC to their new home (a National), ready to be transported in a few weeks when they have propolised the frames to the box for security.

With the fist check, I am really just seeing where they are regarding stores and population. It’s been a tough autumn and winter, so wasn’t expecting there to be much by way of honey, but they have all been really busy so I was interested to see what sort of progress was being made.

As stated numerous times before, I don’t feed or treat my bees, and I had a few losses over the winter due to to Varroa. As the hives were also devoid of stores, it’s easy to think they starved too, but we need to remember that a colony works as a system and to simply feed (or indeed treat for Varroa) doesn’t address the underlying issues. This is shown in the fact that the first post mortem I did was on a swarm that was hived around the same time as this colony here:

They are in different places, but in the same type of hive with the same management from collection – although my bees are a swarm from another treatment-free natural beekeeper, and the other bees were from an unknown source.

I moved these bees over in to their new hive, and it was a great chance to see the whole box. Very little by way of nectar but bursting with new crumbly pollen. They have a new frame to build and plenty of cells to fill and no drone comb yet so I’m not worried about them swarming imminently.

These are the Oak Tree bees:

They have built up really well. They have a lot of cross comb so I can’t really check the frames but they smelled beautiful and are clearly thriving. I decided to nadir this hive as I’ve not done it before, and the super I had also has 12 frames like this one so it seemed a good idea to try it. And these bees came from a tree, I’m wondering if they might be more inclined to build down. I will see what they do…

The next colony is a longstanding colony in my apiary, and they overwintered with no extra insulation but they have been in that hive for a long time so it is nicely propolised. I checked in the top and they still have honey in the super. There weren’t many bees but I didn’t disturb them further as it was a cool wind and it would have taken a lot to break all the seals and I simply don’t see that it’s justified if I’ve no reason to believe the colony is sickening.

There are lots of woodlouse spider cocoons around the edge of the crownboard, and a small Tegenaria in the roof too. I like to encourage – or at least not discourage – any invertebrate wildlife even though spiders might seem unlikely bedfellows for honey bees.

The final hive had plenty of honey in the super, and as I had a spare empty frame, I swapped it for a mostly full, capped super.

The honey from combs like this tastes nothing like the light, floral, summer honey. It’s post-brood, so the honey has been back-filled in to cells formerly occupied by bees, so the cocoons are still in situ. I will feed the crushed combs back to the colony to lick clean.

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