Yesterday morning I did a full inspection of my home hive and all was well. I removed the entry block as the colony is developing well and the weather is warmer thus the sentry bees should be OK with guarding the entrance from robber bees and the larger entrance will help ventilation of the hive.
In the afternoon I went with some other NBA members to visit the apiary of an experienced beekeeper. The theme of the session was varroa mite control.
I met the others at the gates to St Pancras Cemetery. We made our way through this huge place to where John has his apiary. It is well out of public view and the hives are hidden within a sea of tall comfrey flowers. After putting on bees suits and getting the smokers going we inspected his hives checking the 'drop' of mites on the varroa boards and culling some drone brood to see how may mites were sucking the life out of the larvae. The numbers on the boards and in the brood were small. However, during the afternoon I looked down to see a queen bee marked with a red dot on my shoe. It seems that John had lost a queen cage at the last inspection. We found the empty queen cage in the hive I was looking at. She had eaten all the fondant in the cage and escaped and then somehow ended up on my shoe. Lucky I saw her. It was all a bit bonkers with 11 people crashing around in the jungle of plants in astronaut kits puffing smoke and trying not to fall off the pallets that the hives were standing on. A good learning experience. I now need to plan my anti-varroa routine for the year.
It is interesting that the Red Queen Hypothesis concerns an evolutionary arms race where prey and predator constantly evolve together to reach some sort of uneasy balance - honey bee and varroa mite in this case - how appropriate that a red queen bee landed on me!