First inspections of the spring

In sunny Cornwall I’ve just done my first inspections for 2021 inside the hives. It’s been warm enough for some people to walk around in just t-shirts and for me to wear a t-shirt and cardigan, so it was time.

Good news: both colonies are alive and queen-right. Bad news: one (Kensa) is showing signs of chalkbrood disease.

Bee hives and smokers

My inspecting of Demelza went comically wrong. I started by trying to get all my equipment ready so that I could do some queen marking. I opened a brand new queen marking pen bought last summer and tried to use it on some hard surfaces as a test – no ink whatsoever came out. So much for practicing on drones first. I have now ordered a little pot of queen marking paint instead in the hope that there might be something in there.

Demelza is doing well, with the bees filling up most of the frames in the brood box, so I added a super. Now I don’t know how, but I put the super on upside down and then wondered why the frames were sticking up slightly and the crown board wouldn’t lie flat. I will blame it on after running around after two small kids all morning.

Kensa also has a laying queen and plenty of brood, but the chalkbrood made me decide to do a Bailey comb change, which I have already considered. Demelza’s combs were new last year so I can let them crack on with a super filling, but I think it’s important to get Kensa’s bees on fresh new comb. You can find instructions for a Bailey comb change in the National Bee Unit’s Replacing Old Brood Comb guidance.

I have started by putting a brood box full of foundation over the existing brood box, and feeding sugar syrup. By next week hopefully they will have made a start on drawing out the comb and then I have to do the hard part – finding the queen. I will place her in the upper brood box with a queen excluder underneath. Once the brood below has hatched, the old comb can be removed. It can drag on for a while compared to a shook-swarm, but these are not the gentlest of bees and to be honest I don’t fancy shaking them swarming.

Frames labeled with date
Brood frames labeled with date – this is so I can easily see what year the frames were put in. It also makes it obvious which way round the frames were in the hive when I put a frame back in.

I listened to my local Cornwall Beekeeping Association’s last zoom catch up for beginners, it was nice to hear bee chat. It was reported that blackthorn is in flower now in Cornwall, which is a good source of nectar. No physical meeting dates have been set yet, but it’s hoped there will be some bee safaris this summer, so that we can visit each other’s apiaries.

Bees drinking water
The bees drinking at a water station my father-in-law has set up for them
Daffodil meadow
Daffodil meadow in some local National Trust gardens – not bee related!

About Emily Scott

I am a UK beekeeper who has recently moved from London to windswept, wet Cornwall. I first started keeping bees in the Ealing Beekeepers Association’s local apiary in 2008, when I created this blog as a record for myself of my various beekeeping related disasters and – hopefully! – future successes.

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