March is beginning to warm up down here in Devon but not enough for the girls to be out flying full-time yet but there's plenty to be doing in readiness for when the nectar starts to flow. Last week I ordered new frames and foundation because it won't be long now before beekeepers start to make regular inspections of their colonies and looking out for their bees making swarming preparations.
This is my first spring as a beekeeper so I've been doing a lot of reading and watching videos of artificial swarm control so that when I open up the girls for the first time this year, I have an idea of what I might find. Having said that, we've had some warm sunny days and the girls have been out flying already this year, not only on cleansing flights, but bringing back huge amounts of yellow and orange pollen.
I suspect Lizzie is already laying because of the warm days we've been having and the first inspection will confirm this. If she's been busy, then I'll be adding a super to give the bees more space inside the hive as well as giving them storage space for their nectar when the spring flowers are out in bloom.
With new brood frames all knocked up ready to carry out an artificial swarm if needed, I felt happier knowing I was prepared. Then out of the blue I got a call from Cathy, a beekeeper friend, asking if I'd like a colony of bees looking for a home. Of course the answer was yes!
Off we went to bring Cathy's colony back first and for me to take a look at mine. I must confess, I wasn't expecting the hive to be standing taller than I was - floor, 2 brood boxes, 4 supers and a roof! A couple of days later I went back on a hot sunny day to open up to see how the colony was inside. The top 3 supers had frames inside with broken comb or no comb. The fourth super down is where I found the colony on 4 frames. Both brood boxes underneath again had frames inside with more broken comb or no comb at all. A very sorry state with bees clearly starving.
I couldn't leave them like this. I got rid of all the old comb and popped the 4 super frames of brood and bees into one of the brood boxes and surrounded them with the most decent brood frames out of what was there. It wasn't ideal, but the best I could do at the time. Before leaving them, I added a rapid feeder with emergency feed to keep them going until I could return a week later to collect them.
Today was the day to bring them back to their new home. It was disappointing to see that they hadn't' taken any of the sugar syrup (made up with 1lb sugar to 1 pint water). It was wet and windy so I knew the bees wouldn't be out flying. I closed the entrance and strapped the hive so it was nice and stable in the back of the car. Forty minutes later, I drove into the grounds of their new home and gently carried them into their apiary.
There's a lot to do with this little colony and they'll need nurturing until they are strong enough to look after themselves. They've got through winter against all odds so they deserve some extra TLC to help them build a stronger colony. In the meantime, I've left them with some more sugar syrup - this time feeding with a contact feeder to see if they can take it direct from there.
The image used above for this article was published under the terms of a Creative Commons License and is attributed to Jenifer Tucker.