The bees – like all of us – had a very wet winter; damp is more of a problem than cold for the bees, but four of our colonies survived through to March, ready for the spring challenge. Sadly one of the hives rather suddenly declined in activity and it was soon apparent that not only had the colony not survived, but it seemed all the bees had gone, too. Later we found damage on one side of the wooden hive marking the point a persistent woodpecker had attacked the hive. It had eventually managed to make a small hole right through, and whilst not large enough to get at the bees, the damage would have caused a stream of bees to leave the hive to try and defend it. Presumably the woodpecker was able to pick them off one by one as they emerged, to the point the hive was no longer viable. We’d protected the hives in the orchard with chicken wire (a few inches away from the hive) to deter woodpeckers, but hadn’t done this for the garden colonies. A lesson learned for next year.
The end of March brought warmer weather and an end to the soaking, and in the colonies the queens were laying well. With April underway two hives are doing well however one has a queen laying eggs in an erratic fashion. We keep notes from each hive inspection, so that we can monitor behaviour and spot trends both across all the hives and within each colony. Hopefully that way we can identify problems early and take action to resolve them. For now this “erratic” queen will just be watched extra closely!
Its great to be beekeeping again watching the pollen arrive on the bees back legs. Some workers arrive completely covered from head to foot in bright yellow pollen. The workers have also started to collect the nectar from the spring flowers and catkins available in the area.