Rain rain go away....and stay away!
The plan was to visit my bees after work on Monday evening but there was no let up in the rain – surprise, surprise! All we seem to have at the moment is grey clouds and drizzle with the odd bit of brightness here and there. So, yesterday when we had a burst of sunshine at midday I packed my bee suit and tools in my backpack and cycled 10 minutes to see my bees.
Cheesy pic of me in front of the Beehaus. If you look closely, you can see a bee flying towards my face
When I arrived, the Beehaus was bathed in sunshine and I saw loads of bees going in and out of the entrance, many of whom were carrying pollen in the sacs on their hind legs. Here is an interesting bit of bee trivia for you: the honey sac can hold approximately 0.25ml. So, it takes a lot of flights (about 20,000) to create a single jar of honey. But that is collectively as a colony. In just one worker bee's lifetime, which is approximately 40 days, they produce about 1/12th teaspoon of honey. Isn't that crazy?!
|Caught in the act – a bee returning home|
So, after a few quick squirts of liquid smoke underneath the hive, I was ready to go in. I was eager to see how much of the syrup they'd had from the 2.5 litre contact feeder that I'd placed on top of the hive and filled with a 1:1 solution (1lb sugar to 1 pint water) on my last inspection 10 days ago. When I lifted the lid, it was completely empty. Wow! But then again, it has pretty much been raining non-stop and bees don't go out in the rain. Im not surprised as a raindrop must seem huge to a little bee and a single drop could cause concussion (I'm making that last bit up but it could be feasible).
|The 2.5 litre contact feeder was empty. Hungry bees!|
I'm actually really pleased I had fed them because going through the frames I could tell that they'd been drawing the wax out of the newer brood frames towards the front of the hive. I also spotted Queen Freddie on the fourth frame from the back. This was a relief as I hadn't spotted her on my past two inspections. She was on one of the new frames (i.e. not one of the original nucleus frames) which is good news because it means the colony is expanding and I really want a strong colony to go into winter.
|A view from the top. As you can see, the bees have built some comb on the top of the frames. This was exactly where the opening of the feeder was|
Apart from seeing Freddie, another thing that made me happy about this inspection is that the bees weren't as grumpy. I have a feeling this may have something to do with the sunny weather. They were just getting on with things and weren't too perturbed that I was there.
I've also opted to do inspections in my marigolds now instead of big leather gloves. It just allows me to grip and handle the frames a lot better. It's also quite a weird sensation to 'feel' the bees more. Another advantage is that because marigolds are cheap, you can chuck them out after every other inspection. This is good for hygiene as cleaning leather gloves can be difficult. As you can tell from the photo below, you can get lots of propolis on your gloves. This is essentially what is referred to as 'bee glue', which the bees use a lot in the hive to plug in any gaps. That is why the hive tool comes in handy to gently nudge the frames apart as they are often 'stuck' down.
|A curious little bee on my glove|
As my bees had eaten (or is it drunk) all their syrup, I planned to come back later that day and bring them some more. Although the weatherman swears that the weather is meant to improve from next week, I've learnt not to trust him so I thought I'd rather be safe than sorry. Also, it really doesn't take much effort to make up the syrup and if the bees don't need it, they want have it. So, as I do running club with my bee landlady, Sarah, on Tuesday evenings I decided to come back with her afterwards to put the syrup in the feeder. As I was doing this, she had opened a bottle of wine so, Sarah, myself and our friend Lina spent the evening chatting and drinking. I think I can get used to beekeeping followed by wine on a summer's evening.....and the rain stayed away. Yay!
|Sarah has lavender on her patio and my bees just can't get enough of it|