What feelings and emotions do new beekeepers feel when they are about to go out and open up a hive for the very first time after the long winter months? For a couple of months now, I must confess to feeling quite anxious at times. Even to the point of keeping me awake at night, worrying at what I might find. At the same time, I have an overwhelming feeling of excitement at the whole idea of opening the hive up to see how Lizzie and her family are doing. After all, it's been quite a while since my last inspection and there's a deep urge to find out how they are doing.
This weekend we had a little window of opportunity as the temperature raised above 14oC here in Devon, so after running out of displacement activities putting the task off, I put on my beesuit, pulled on on wellies, gathered and lit the smoker and took a step outside the back door and headed towards the colony where the bees were busy bringing back their baskets of yellow and orange pollen.
Staying calm, I had a plan of what I wanted to do. There's no need to do a full check at this stage, just to see how the colony is doing and if lucky, spot the queen down in the brood box.
I overwintered the colony with a super below and above the brood box and had been hefting the hive regularly throughout the winter so was happy knowing that the colony had sufficient stores. Taking off the roof, I could see bees through the holes in the crown board coveing the supers below. Not knowing where Lizzie would be, I gently lift the super off and gently placed it directly on the upturned roof. I felt very happy looking down to see a good covering of bees on the brood frames. Taking out the first frame, I methodically went through each frame making a note of what I found - two queen cups seen, not charged, but something to keep an eye on during my next inspection this weekend when the weather looks to be promising.
Lizzie has clearly been very busy laying with healthy looking pearl white larvae and digestive biscuit coloured capped cells. Looking closely I could see new bees chewing their way to shortly emerge to start their new lives in the colony.
It would have been nice to have seen Lizzie, but it wasn't to be on this occasion.
Aware of how long I had been taking during my first inspection, I closed the hive down after gently brushing the small number of bees in the super in the brood box and adding the queen excluder.
The girls were as calm as ever and before walking away, I thanked them for being kind to me and letting me take a look into their wonderful world.
The image used has been published under the terms of a Creative Commons License and is attributed to Jenifer Tucker.