Sunday, 22 March 2009
We finally opened up the hives this afternoon. Last year I lost a hive, leaving me with just one after the winter. But we restocked and finished with four hives. Then the original hive lost its queen - I suspect that the bees had replaced the old queen and the new queen was very possibly eaten by a bird on her mating flight. This hive was in serious trouble and it was getting late in the season for the bees to raise a new queen so I decided to buy a queen that had already been mated and introduced her successfully - so successfully that this hive, the weakest of the four in September, is now the strongest!
Today's inspection was the first of the season and an opportunity of looking for trouble and hopefully averting it. During February we had a dreadful storm that took the lid off one of the hives and I was worried about this one. However, there was brood in all four hives which means that there is a queen laying in each one. First box ticked.
Another thing to look for is adequate food. I still have sugar candy on all the hives and we replaced the almost empty ones. There is also plenty of honey and pollen in all of the hives so I am reassured. I believe though that a lot of hives are lost at this time of year because winter stores are low and there are not many nectar giving plants around. At the moment, though, we are ok. Second box ticked.
The third box I can't yet tick because I don't yet know. This is the dreaded varroa box. This horrible parasite lives off the bees and weakens them making the colony weak and eventually unable to survive. I put anti varroa tabs in each hive during the autumn for six weeks and then I did a follow up Oxalic Acid treatment in December. At the next inspection I will put in test floors - these slide in underneath the open mesh permanent floor and after a week you count how many varroa have fallen through. A small number is "ok" - it's believed that all colonies have some varroa - but a large number requires treatment.
The next inspection will be in approximately nine days, depending on the weather. Not cold, not too windy and no rain.