Spring Hive Check: Happy Bees & Beekeepers.

This Saturday just passed, although it wasn’t technically spring, the weather seemed to think it was time to turn and decided to gift us with a day that was with any luck a glimpse of things to come before we enter into the inferno of summer here in Victoria.  This being the case, the intrepid Humpy Creek beekeepers decided it was the perfect opportunity to venture into our hive for the  first spring check to allow us to assess the health of the hive coming out of the long, cold winter and to plan for what we hope will be a fruitful Spring and Summer for our bees … and ourselves if we are really lucky.

Bee cleaning

Practising non invasive methods (as far as one can when breaking into a hive as unceremoniously as humans do), we were only invading the hive to find out exactly what we needed to know regarding the hive’s health and condition.  This means we did as little as possible to make our assessments, and were in and out as fast as possible to avoid disrupting the bees too much.  We wanted, at the very least, to see capped or uncapped brood, and to check up on their winter honey stores to see how they fared as we approach the warmer months.  We left the bees to themselves throughout the winter, as any external and unnecessary stress during hard times is of no help to them or indeed us.

Bee with pollen on blossom

Our bees remained relatively active throughout the winter, a positive sign leading up to our hive check, and we were confident as to their health.  However, estimations won’t always do, so we had to make certain that all was well leading into the bee’s busy period.  We had observed large loads of pollen being regularly hauled in through the entrance by hard working foragers recently and through much of winter, a sign that brood must still be present and therefore we still have a queen performing her royal duties.  Having to replace a failing queen towards the end of last summer, this was an obstacle that we didn’t particularly want to face again so soon.  Sure enough, brood was present towards the centre of the hive.  No need to waste time looking for Queenie herself.  Best to leave her to it.

Bees on comb

Much to our delight, there was a large amount of capped honey and cells currently being filled on the outer frames (as can be seen in the above image), so even if winter stores had somewhat been diminished work is now being done to replenish and build stores to fuel the increasing activity and growing numbers of the hive.  Bees, being far more intelligent than humans, will regulate colony growth when conditions require them to do so (lean times during winter), however, as the days warm and lengthen, forgaing activity increases as does the amount of forage available.  Numbers can grow quick, and the hive can expand rapidly.  Such rapid expansion will generally lead to swarming when critical mass is reached, so it’s also time to get ahead of the bees and provide them with a super stocked with fresh frames (room to move and grow) to accomodate their growth before they make plans to move.

Quilt box

We were also happy to see that the quilt box we had placed on top of the brood box (a new addition to our hive at the beginning of winter) served its purpose pefectly.  The wood shavings had absorbed an incredible amount of moisture, actually being quite damp to touch, and no doubt the brood box had been insulated and protected from the cold as well as it possibly could be.  There is no question in our minds that the bees were probably a hell of a lot warmer than we were in the caravan for most of the winter (lucky bastards).  So it is time to replace the wood shavings with a fresh mix and set the quilt box back in place to continue doing its job throughout the summer where it will then protect them from the sun’s radiant heat.

Things are looking very bright indeed for the first Humpy Creek colony, and very promising for the addition of possibly a few more.  Who knows … we may be posting about our first jar of honey in the not so distant future!