For the first time this year, never before having been so late, I conducted a couple of full examinations of colonies. Really, I did it as a birthday treat as I officially entered my second childhood at 65 yesterday.
The first colony was at Frogmore Farm, a mile this side of Toller Porcorum and about as organic as they get. Bees were flying strongly and bringing in pollen. They weren’t using the supers at all, but there was lots of overwintered honey (yes, real honey! Not recycled sugar as I don’t normally feed my bees.).They are rather short of space and so I ought to do a Bailey comb change as the comb is rather on the dark side. They seem very healthy though, as there were better brood patterns than you see pictured in text books. The bees are on the dark side and there was a range of sizes. I often notice that colonies with variable sizes do better than uniform ones.
The next colony, on 35 acres of organic orchard at Halstock, near the Somerset boundary, was a complete contrast. These are the bees I found near the hive as a small cast on 23rd April and, after several attempts, persuaded them to enter a dilapidated CDB hive. They were still there: two adjacent patches, about the size of the palm of my hand, right at the back of the hive. There was some newly drawn comb with stores, but no brood that I could see. There are a few drones around now so it is possible that their queen, if they have one, could still get mated, but it will be a miracle if they survive.
It’s May now and I don’t think I’ve lit a smoker since last August.