Well the weather has been pretty rubbish. As it was pretty cold we needed to keep our inspection fairly quick, – most beekeepers probably wouldn’t open the hive and disturb the bees in this weather, but there were a few things we needed to check:
1. Do they have enough food?
2. What progress have they made in drawing out the frames of foundation we put in, and do we need to give them more room?
3. Is the queen present (especially as we didn’t see her when transferring them in)?
Before we opened up the hive, we watched them coming in and out of the entrance. Although it was reasonably cool, it was sunny and sheltered and there were plenty of bees coming and going, mostly laden with pollen. Based on the pollen guide on the Bristol Beekeepers website my guess is they were bringing in apple (they live in an orchard!), crabapple and dandelion. Bringing in pollen is a good sign – it means that they are raising brood (larvae), as the pollen provides protein for brood development.
We put a feeder on last week as the bees came with minimal stores on their frames, and the weather has been cool, so there is not a lot of opportunity for them to go out and forage. This will make sure that they don’t starve, and also help stimulate them to draw out the new foundation. We had topped it up during the week, and there was still plenty left this inspection, so we left it as is.
They hadn’t made much progress drawing out the foundation – just part of one side of one frame, so they definitely didn’t need more room!
We found eggs, which tells us that the queen is there. As eggs take three days to hatch into a larva, this means that the queen has been there within the last three days – i.e. since we transferred them in. As it was cool, and the bees were pretty agitated, we decided to close up the hive, as we’d seen all we needed to see.
We hadn’t yet seen the queen, but we knew she was there.
But then once we were home, Angela sent around her photos and the eagle-eyed Kathy spotted our queen on one of them. She’s unmarked, so tricky to spot. She is bigger than the worker bees, and has a long, pointed abdomen. Once it gets warm enough to spend more time with the hive open we’ll try and find her and mark her so she is easier to find.