This is the first in a regular series of blogs by the Tutor’s on the OBKA Beginners Course.
I have 3 colonies at home tucked into the bottom corner of the garden against a drystone wall on a patio area. Taking advantage of the recent warm days and sheltered area I complete my first inspection of the year – a health check on each hive. It is still early in the year and the brood can die if they get chilled. Be prepared: make very sure you know what you are looking for (see YouTube link below) and ‘bee’ quick! The best time to check is when it’s warm enough to wear a T-shirt (15 degrees plus). The temperature is far more important than the date of this first inspection.
No1 hive. Capped brood on 4/5 frames about half of each frame, building up, plenty of stores.
No2 hive. A little ahead of no1 with more capped brood. But the queen was unmarked, so they must have superseded in the autumn (new queen is a good size and a light golden colour). I had my marking kit out ready to go: it’s much easier to find the Queen and mark her now than later on when there are more bees.
No3 hive. Well there is always one! No BIAS (brood in all stages) No Queen, but one Queen cell capped, 3 drone larvae capped and alive.
What to do? The colony is a good size, but the Queen cell is not, so even if it’s viable and managed to get mated (with not many drones about and changeable weather) it may well be replaced later, leading to a another period of slow build up. With low numbers of bees through the season honey surplus will be low.
On the next warm day I will unite hive no3 with a Queen-right colony, which will then build up quickly and start bringing in a surplus. I can then split it later in the season when queen rearing is more viable. At the moment it’s important to make sure the bees have enough stores.
Useful Videos: Have a look at
First inspection by the Norfolk Honey Company: https://youtu.be/Ryki5pjawHA
Uniting two colonies: https://youtu.be/9c2q9CsarRg
If you have any questions resulting from this blog, or indeed just any beekeeping questions, head over to our Q&A page in the members area.