Updated: Apr 3, 2021
The clue is in the title!!. As a help to anyone who is new to bee keeping and is a the start of their first season looking after bees, I have decide to give a week by week, and blow by blow account of everything I do with Two of my colonies that I keep in my small back garden here in Southampton.
The new season for me is just about to start, and I hope to carryout the first inspections of all of my colonies next week ( weather permitting). up until now the temperature has been to cold for carrying out inspections, but looking at the forecast things seem to be going in the right direction.
I have chosen these two colonies, and as luck would have it they are side by side in the apiary, because there is a noticeable difference in the number of bees that have been leaving and returning to the hives, and at the moment I can only guess as to what is happening inside each colony.
The Hive on the Left is the stronger of the two colonies.
All will be revealed when I inspect them next week!.
In the meantime though I will be finishing the Nucleus Boxes I have been making.
I have constructed 4x 5 Frame Nucleus Boxes and 4x 4 Frame Nucleus Boxes.
Here is a photo of the work in progress, but will upload an image of the finished items, and as the season progresses will show you how I put them to use
That is all for this week. if you have any questions then please feel free to message me and I will get back to you as quickly as possible.
Unfortunately the weather this week has still been just to cold to carry out any inspections, but the forecast for the coming week is good, so I will be carrying out the first inspections of the season on Monday 22/03/21.
I have not been idle though, and today made a couple of double screen divider boards. these are not my idea but something I found on the internet. Bob Binnie of Blue Ridge Mountain Honey in the USA has posted some fantastic articles on YouTube and they are one of his ideas. They make taking early season splits , as part of swarm control really easy and I will post how I use them as and when I do.
Looking at the activity in front of hive 1, that is the hive on the left of the photo above, I am sure that they will need splitting very soon. The reason for making an early season split is to reduce the population of the hive an create more space for the expanding brood nest.
This time of the year a colony starts to expand rapidly, and if the bees inside the colony become overcrowded they will look to swarm. When I carryout the split I will reduce the Colony to 4 frames of brood and , 2 frames of food, and 2 frames of foundation and I will insert a follower board to keep confined to 8 frames. As the brood nest expands into the foundation provide, I will move the follower board and insert another frame until eventually have the full compliment of 10 frames.
Here are 2 photos of the double screen boards
Please feel free to ask any questions you might have, and any comments are always welcome. That's all for this week and I look forward to sharing how the first inspection go on Monday.
Inspection date 22/03/21
Today I carried out the first inspection of the season. this is the account of what I found and what manipulations where carried out:
Opened Hive 1, which is the hive on the left hand side of the above photo, and instantly after lifting the crown board realised that this hive was already overcrowded . Removing the crown board had pulled apart a large clump of drone brood and a lot of brace comb had been constructed. I removed the first outside frame which was solid stores and set aside. I removed frame 2 and found 5 or 6 queen cups, looked inside and found 2 empty cups, 3 with just an egg and 2 cell that had been charged with Royal Jelly, ( so now these are Queen cells and not just Queen cups) . Hive 1 had started swarm preparations, so action had to be taken to avoid this colony swarming.
I decided to carry out an artificial swarm referred to in many books as the (Pagden Method). I wont go into the method now but will add another page about carrying out an artificial swarm. To quickly summarise the Pagden Method, it is simple separating the Queen and the flying bees from all the brood and the nurse bees.
After the artificial swarm had been completed the Queen was in a new brood box with 9 more frames of new foundation, in the same position the original colony had been, and the old colony was then separated into 2 Nucleus hives, which I placed on top of hive 2 seperated by a double screen board.
removed the crown board and carried out an inspection. I found the Queen which is always nice to do, as you know that she is present. I found cells which contained eggs and three and a half frames of brood in all stages. I had a frame of sealed brood left over from the division of hive 1 so this was added too hive 2 to bolster the numbers. The bees where very calm on the frames and not running around quickly and there was a good brood pattern and no signs of disease were found in either hive.
My next inspection is tomorrow 29/03/21 so will give an update as to what i find.
After carrying out an artificial swarm to Hive 1 on the 22/o3/21 there was really not a great deal to do this inspection apart from removing the Queen excluder which had been placed underneath the brood box to ensure that if the queen after being moved into another brood box decided to abscond then this would prevent her from doing so.
I carried out a full inspection of Hive 2. I did not see the Queen but she had laid loads of eggs. I found 4.5-5 frames of brood in all stages and the bees are all looking very healthy. they have started to bring in nectar as this was seen being stored in the frames as well as plenty of pollen for the young brood. I decided that it was now time to add a super to give them extra space, and easy the congestion that has already started. It is always a good Idea to super as early as you can at the start of the season as this helps to control the urge for the colony to swarm.
I placed a queen excluder on top of the brood box and then added a super, followed by the double screen board which the 2 Nucleus colonies are sat on.
I now inspected the 2 Nucleus colonies and had a very pleasant surprise . In one of the Nuc boxes I found a beautiful Queen Cell, about 2 inches long that had already been capped. By working out the dates, the new virgin Queen should emerge either Easter Sunday or Bank Holiday Monday. I really hope that the weather quickly improves next week and warms up, so that the virgin queen is able to go on a successful mating flight and is mated properly, otherwise she will become a drone laying queen which I will have to destroy. The forecast is not looking good for Bank Holiday Monday, and will be to cold to carryout an inspection but I will inspect as soon as I can next week