Wet Spring out West

By | April 28, 2012

The Walmer Gardens hive was checked this Saturday.
As mentioned before, Spring 2012 has gone a bit soggy and today was no different.

Tthe Walmer Gardens hive, and lively pond

Tthe Walmer Gardens hive, and lively pond

Generally you want to check hives when it is above 16 degrees C, and dry.
Bees need to keep their larvae and pupae warm to allow them to develop.
Honey is (partly) sugary nectar with the water extracted, or evaporated off.
So introducing wet and cold into a hive is not a good idea.
However, it is necessary to check the hive weekly during Spring and Summer, to make sure there is no prepared swarming , or anything else undesirable going on.

There are some great advantages to working as a group on a hive; you can go on holiday and leave others to tend the hive, you share and learn alternative experiences and perspectives, and the feeling of community working on the hive together.

One of the few disadvantages include coordinating a time to check the hive which suits everyone.
In this case a cold rainy Saturday suited the humans best (but not especially the bees, who may rather have waited until a drier day..)
But check them we must, and while not ideal, its a matter of being organised, getting into the hive with purpose, and closing it up again quickly on these inclement days.

While not a disadvantage, I noticed that everyone wanted to be involved and participate. Everyone wants a job to do, which could tend to too many cooks. Personally, I think “spectator” can be  a suitable role when you want to quickly check a hive in poor weather, thought there’s no need to  reign in harmless enthusiasm and be a kill joy.

A frame fresh with capped brood, and  plenty of active healthy bees

A frame fresh with capped brood, and plenty of active healthy bees

Regardless of my Tayloristic stance, the bees were a little agitated, but seemed healthy enough.
I took the agitation as an energetic bunch – they certainly werent starving like the lethargic Rua Tekau pa.
Walmer Gardens werent at the capacity of Rua Tekau and didnt yet have a super, but these West Londoners only began as a 5 frame nucleus around 3 weeks ago, so it was no surprise the colony was a different size, at a different stage.

We cleaned off some brace comb (comb built in spaces bigger than the marvellous 5-9 mm bee space), checked and saw brood in all stages (BIAS), and fed them some more sugar syrup while the weather is keeping them indoors. We didnt see the queen who we now know is unmarked (and so harder to spot), however we did see evidence of the queen which is good enough.

I did get stung today - the first time as an adult for many years.
The bees werent very happy about us opening them up to the cold and wet.
It was surprisingly light and Id measure it as only a 1 on the Schmidt Sting Pain Index, and I’m pleased to know that I’m not allergic – which would have been fatal to a bee keeping hobby.

I’ll admit I was worried my first sting might be like
1.8: “A rare, piercing, elevated sort of pain. Someone has fired a staple into your cheek”
3: “Bold and unrelenting. Somebody is using a drill to excavate your ingrown toenail”

It earns my mark as an official beekeeper.


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