Follow our progress running the nursery, watching wild bees, keeping honey bees and creating our own bee-haven in south Oxfordshire

Getting the bees ready for the new season

Today was glorious; it started out at -3 degrees but by mid-afternoon the hives were basking in the low sun and the bees were all out having a party. We have been getting our equipment ready and this seemed like the perfect conditions to open up the hives for some late winter treatement.

This is first time we have opened the hives since a mild period in early December. At that time we were concerned that one of the colonies had no external signs of life but, thankfully, we found it was just ticking over.

We were very relieved, today,  to find the brood boxes quite full of life but it wasnt warm enough to lift out the frames and check for signs of new lava. Both hives had a surprising amount of food; honey and fondant. We must have been overly generous.

The frames of honey have set hard so if the bees dont eat it we will have to work out what to do with it. Maybe we will retrieve the fondant to encourage them to eat the honey and empty out these frames ready for re-use later.

We also treated them for varroa mites using oxalic acid. This has to be done before they start to expand the brood. A warning to anyone who hasn't done this procedure with a syringe before; you can't fill the syringe direct from the bottle as the nozzle is too short and you cant pour the liquid into it either as it comes out the bottom. It would appear that you need to pour it into a bowl first but the instructions dont tell you this. I hadnt worked this out in advance, so there I was, standing in the field needing 3 hands and trying not to get chemicals all over me and my friend Amanda.  Very tricky.

We are aiming to try and increase our hives from 2 to 4 this year by dividing the brood and using a technique called 'artificial swarming' (I am sure there will be blogs to come on this).  Therefore we want to get them off to the very best start to swell in numbers to a size that will divide giving two viable colonies.  So far, its looking good.