I water my new bee garden every day. It will need to some colourful annuals to fill it up until the new plants become established and spread. This is being hampered by my enemies the local foxes who have dug up the plants several nights running. I have now had to fortify it with cane pyramids protecting each plant and bean-netting so it looks rather horrible.
The bees have been bringing in pollen and taking water from the birdbath when the sun has shone but the weather has turned cold again so I cannot open the hive and carry out the tasks identified in my last blog. I suspect the queen has started laying and cannot be sure that there are sufficient stores for the colony so I will feed them a small amount of sugar syrup until it is warm enough to open the hive and there is sufficient nectar for them to bring back.
I am regularly reviewing my website and have added a section on bees in folklore which I found interesting to research.
I assisted on the British Beekeepers' Association stand at the Edible Garden Show yesterday. We were over-run with primary school children wanting to make rolled candles. It was interesting that four of the schools have their own hives. I also had the opportunity to walk around the show at the end of my shift and did some campaigning with a garden design company to inform them about the hidden dangers of chemicals within compost. Not much point in selling a 'Bee and Butterfly' border if is going to kill them!
25th March up-date
I decided that it was just warm enough to remove the super, which was full of honey in the autumn, from under the brood box and have a very quick look at stores. The super had no honey left so I removed it and will clean the propolis and brace comb off the frames ready for the new season. As it is still cold I only checked a couple of frames in the brood box. I found that there was still some honey left, but I am glad I added the 'thin syrup' in the rapid feeder. As I guessed, the queen has indeed started laying and there were large larvae and capped brood in one of those dirty old frames I want to replace. I decided not to take it out as we need the first of the new season's bees as the workers that have over-wintered are now getting to the end of their lives. I will remove these frames in the next couple of weeks when it is warm enough to do a full inspection and I can see how much brood there is. I still await the currant being in full blossom as the indicator that it is warm enough to open up the hive.
Not such good news - a few small brown streaks on the alighting board. This could be a sign of Nosema, a disease of the bee digestive tract. Other signs would be bees on the ground and 'K' wing. I could take a sample of 30 bees in a match box for analysis. For the present, I cleaned off the board and will monitor over the next few weeks. At present my favoured option is to treat them with an organic product such as Nozevit or Vitafeed which would be a tonic and helps build disease resistance more generally.