This afternoon I diverted via my hive on the holiday camp near Weymouth to see if it is ok and maybe give the bees a squirt of Oxalic. The temperature, according to my car’s gauge, was 9.5C, which must be close to 49.1F if my mental arithmetic is up to scratch.
I parked, cautiously, just inside the gateway, having recently been bogged down when visiting an apiary, and hopped my way across the bogmire to the hive. There must have been a water/wind flow across there recently as the taller vegetation was aslant and leafless, making the hive show up like a lighthouse and clearly visible from the road, a situation I was hoping to avoid for security reasons.
I was surprised to see how strongly the bees were flying on the relatively cool day. One bee, dead, was caught in a cobweb near the roof so I pulled it off and applied my pocket magnifying glass to the wings. I could measure only by eye, and a sample of 1 is not very relevant statistically, but I observed that the cubital index was well under 2 and the discoidal shift was negative. These characteristics suggest native, Apis Mellifera Mellifera, genes; however there was a strong yellow colour in the first tergite which is more typical of Italian, Apis Mellifera Ligustica, blood (or haemolymph). Therefore I guess that bee was a mongrel and so will be her sisters.
Pocketing my lens again, my glance returned to the entrance where I briefly saw the back end of a DRONE going in! If you read and believe the text books you will know that there ain’t no drones at this time of year! Maybe it is the local climate, the strain of bees or the erroneous textbooks, but when, a year and 6 days ago, I opened that hive to apply oxalic, not only was there brood, but drone brood! That hive went on to produce the best crop of a poor year.
I turned around and was surprised to see another hive! I had entirely forgotten about it. It had been a hive next to the one just examined but, last March, they were queenless so I united them with the big hive just described and set up the, then empty, hive on an X shaped stand on a sheet of carpet on the opposite side. It must soon have become enveloped in the luxuriant vegetation of the wet wild-flower meadow as it disappeared from view and from mind.
There was a smattering of pale powder on the carpet in front of the entrance. This prompted me to lift the roof and crownboard to see bees! I have one more colony than I thought I had!