16 Jun 2020

Taking care on a rather blustery day

Ardd Fotaneg · Botanic Garden

Flaming June! Botanic Garden beekeeper Lynda Christie battles with the elements to make her mark

When we visualise a beekeeper at work, we imagine opening up hives around midday, the weather is sunny and the bees are out foraging and they are lovely and calm on the comb. The scent of pollen and nectar is in the air and we have such a pleasurable activity checking each hive at a leisurely pace, the sun on our faces.
When the wind is blowing, there are dark, threatening grey clouds and rain in the air and I need to check to see if colonies have laying queens and not deciding to swarm, all of the above does not apply! Some days, we just have to get on with it, taking care not to antagonise or disrupt the bees too much.
Last week, I had my concerns about the amount of stores that the colonies had been collecting. I like to carry out checks at regular intervals to keep informed about what is going on in each colony and if they need a helping hand. We had a lovely downpour the previous evening so the plants had a decent watering and this should help with the nectar flow. There are more and more brambles out in flower and, on the patch by the science apiary, the bees were getting stuck in.
Part way through the inspections, the dark clouds became more menacing and the bees were coming back to the hives in droves to get out of the weather. This reminded me of a lovely little book that I would recommend: At the Hive Entrance by H Storch. We learn so much from observing our bees and they knew that it was about to rain so came swiftly back to their hives.

I managed to check the colonies that have been split previously and all had eggs and young larvae, so we have new laying queens. Hopefully, at the next inspection, the weather will be more friendly and I will be able to find and mark the new queens with this year’s colour: blue.
Some colonies were still quite short of stores so I topped up the feeders where necessary. The swarm I collected has drawn six brood frames and has a laying queen. I topped up their feeder to encourage them to draw out the rest of the frames to provide plenty of space for the queen to carry on laying.

Another small swarm was queen-less; they have been drawing out frames the past couple of weeks but now I have united them with another colony to boost their numbers. I would have liked to photograph this activity but the bees were not happy with the weather so, in the circumstances, it was just not conducive for taking pictures. But I continued despite the weather as this was one task on my list that I really wanted to achieve. If left too long without a queen, a colony may start to have laying workers and then we are in all sorts of trouble . . .
I’ve checked the weather forecast and I am optimistic that, next time, the apiary inspections will be more as we imagine, 18-20 degrees Celsius and sunny, then I may get those queens marked.

Lynda Christie
June 11, 2020