Intruder alert


After another week of rain, this afternoon was unusally warm — between 11°C and 12°C, if a little on the windy side. I opened up the hives to take samples for tomorrow's pollen microscopy workshop at the local beekeepers' association. This was the first time any of the hives have been opened for four months, but this wasn't a full inspection. I won't be logging any data this time — it would only be inaccurate. My intention was to spend as little time as possible in each hive, ideally under a minute, to get two samples from each with a teaspoon.

However, there was a lot to see from even the short time required to steal this honey. A lot of it was surprising.

For colony 1 (the one I'm managing with Ⓑ), I was expect wild comb and chaos. Instead I saw seven neat frames of what looked like mostly stores. This is remarkable. Colony 1 has always been the smaller colony by quite a way, but over the winter this seems to have been very good for them — their resources haven't been depleted much. They were also arranged in a nice ball on the centremost frames, keeping warm and busy.

Colony 2 is rather a different situation. I thought I could just pull out the second-to-outermost frame and take a spoonful of stores, but it turned out that there are very few stores in there. I couldn't tell how few exactly, but there were a lot of dark brown empty cells and only patches of capped honey here and there, mostly quite hard and dehydrated. I had to go through a few frames to find one that wasn't empty, though I did see a fair amount of uncapped nectar, maybe from new foraging missions. We should remember that this is a larger, more successful, and more active colony, as well as a very late swarm (25 July). The colony may have been suffering from its own success a bit — the bigger, more active population requiring more resources. They also are in a nice warm ball and seem to be doing generally winter bee behaviour, so things are otherwise great.

I suppose we have to hope for a mild March now, and we can ask some of the beekeepers at the session tomorrow what to do. When I was at Thorne's, I bought some ApiCandy. I've suggested giving it a try on Colony 2, since the Fondabee does seem to be getting pretty dried-out each time we look, though in Colony 1 this doesn't happen.

Of course, the bees were unhappy with having their homes opened up in the middle of winter and having some honey taken. My dad commented that half the hive was on my bee suit at one point and it took a few minutes to get them all off again. I can't remember a time when more of them were out and trying to see me off. Within the first few seconds I had bees going for my face and circling around my head. I don't blame them and in fact it's good they are good at defence. But the main thing is that I and particularly the bees came away unscathed. They had to give up nearly 10ml of their honey but hopefully after tomorrow we'll know a lot more about them and their foraging habits.

The results of the session are shown in the attached photo. Our hive produced the honey in the green and blue pots, and Dave and Ⓓ's hive produced the honey in the pink and purple pots. Ours appears much paler, and hopefully we'll see more differences when we see each through a microscope tomorrow.

Colony ID
Queen seen?
Queen cells
Framefuls of stores
Frames available for brood
Estimated mites
Temper / docility
Feed given
Treatment given
Supers added
C1311°C ☁ windy