With the pleasant weather on Saturday 2 April, I decided to open my two top bar hives (named Wolvercote and Phacelia, after their swarm collection locations) and see how things had progressed over the winter. While both hives were calm, there were notable differences in their situations.
Wolvercote had a good number of bees who were happily foraging, bringing in pollen which indicates that the queen was present and she had begun to lay. There were several very black (old) combs with not much on them, so I removed some of those so that the bees will build fresh comb for the new season. Otherwise their stores were notably less than in Phacelia and they had moved along the hive, presumably to access the stores during the winter.
Phacelia, in contrast, had a very small number of bees. Their queen was present and quite big – but she was not laying. The mesh floor was covered in dead bees. I took some out but didn’t want to spend too long, so may go back soon and clear them out. There was loads of honey on several bars and I removed three of them for use at home.
The thing that caught my attention was the white deposits in areas of several combs in both hives. I had not seen this before and emailed Paul with my concern that I had a chalk brood problem – but he reassured me that it is just the remains of ivy honey that the bees have not managed to clean out/eat. See photo. I hadn’t realized that ivy honey is so white. In fact it doesn’t really seem like honey at all, and has a strange consistency/taste.
I also spotted some very tiny beetles and checked on the web to see what Small Hive Beetle looks like. Turns out my beetles are quite a bit smaller, being only 1 mm wide. The dreaded SHB is 3mm fat. Relief again!
If Wolvercote’s queen really gets going with her laying I may move a comb with brood including eggs, across to Phacelia – just in case their queen is infertile. Then they will be able to raise up a new queen. I will monitor the situation in the next week or two.