Sunday, 29 July 2012

Checking the bee hives

We have had a bit of a bee day today (though we also found time to go to the Gateshead Summer Flower Show). We started at Bill Quay Community Farm where we checked the three hives - we are volunteer beekeepers at the farm. All three looked in good order. One hive may possibly have a small honey surplus that could be harvested later in the summer.

After the flower show we went to our Whickham apiary where we have three hives, all created from swarms in June. The main concern was whether or not they had fertile queens. The bad spring weather may have deterred virgin queens from leaving the hives to be mated. As we walked through the garden to the hives we could see a great deal of activity, always a good sign. And each hive had bees taking in lots of pollen, usually a sign that there are lots of bee larvae needing to be fed and therefore a queen is laying. When we opened each hive, we found a strong colony in each and lots of brood. The problem was that they had filled the supers with comb that contained brood. The supers had been added so that we could put fondant into the hives to feed the bees. Removing this is not going to be easy as it is attached to the cover board. We will call on a friend for advice. John has kept bees for decades and his thoughts on the matter are needed.

We then headed up to our first apiary and checked the four hives there. The first could possibly give us a small honey crop in a few weeks' time. The second has the same problem as the hives in the other apiary - comb full of brood attached to the cover board. The third had brood (I had previously had concerns that the hive was possibly queenless but the presence of brood shows the queen is still alive and active. Given this hive swarmed a number of times last month, it probably contains a very young queen that has only recently been mated.) The final hive is a merger of a small swarm and a hive that had become queenless. We found brood in it so it seems as though it is operating as it should though I feel we need to keep an eye on it.)

So, all in all, I was pleased with what we found after the disappointment of earlier this month when we opened the hives and found no honey and were left wondering whether many of the hives were viable. At best we will only get a small honey crop but hopefully the hives will be in a strong position next year to go into serious honey production.

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