Like many beekeepers around the country, the beekeepers at the Botanic Garden have noticed the bees are struggling this spring. As soon as the weather clears the bees are out foraging but then the bad weather arrives and the bees are stuck inside and use up their stores. Hives are not building up as nicely as we would like and even some nucleus hives that we split from our strongest colonies have no sign of the queens being mated as there are no eggs or larvae.
We are having to adjust our apiary inspections to fit in with the weather forecast and inspect when we have a window of opportunity.
But, some bees are giving us the run around this week. As we were making our way around checking hives in the main apiary, a swarm emerged from a hive that we had split previously and settled into a bramble hedge just outside the Bee Garden. A skep was used to collect the swarm, placed over the cluster and the bees were smoked up into the basket.
These were left to settle and a hive was prepared in the apiary to receive the swarm. When we went to collect it, the bees were leaving the skep and flying back to the front of the original hive that it emerged from! Bees at the entrance were fanning to show others the entrance and within ten minutes they were all back in their hive.
We were left pondering if they were just escorting the virgin queen on her maiden flight or practicing for the real thing once the weather improves. The hive was checked and there was no evidence of multiple queens, so hopefully they were just exercising their swarming instincts. It may have been the disturbance to the hive that also prompted them to emerge… if only the bees could talk!
We did a regular disease check and noticed that there were Varroa mites in some drone cells. We have inserted a shallow frame into the brood chamber to allow the bees to draw drone cells. Once these are laid up and then sealed we will cull these cells to reduce the Varroa load in the hive. We will continue to monitor the hives for mites and if the load gets too large we may have to treat.
This year, so far, beekeepers are more weather watchers than ever! I’m just keeping my fingers crossed that we can keep the bees going until we the weather improves.
Let’s end on an optimistic note and hope for a glorious summer with lots of forage opportunities for the bees! It is rumoured that the jet stream is heading north in a couple of weeks for we may get a summer after all. You never know we may even get a honey harvest if we’re lucky.
Ecosystems Trainer and Beekeeper