On the way back from the auction last Saturday, I meandered round a couple of my empty sites. On the first, a wild flower meadow on a seaside holiday camp, one of the hives had been overturned by the gales and so I righted it and cleaned it up. The second had a nest of mice inside! I evicted them and their comfy nest and cleaned up. I still don’t understand how they got in as they appeared to be quite hefty creatures and yet the hive entrance is only a quarter of an inch deep. I can’t get my little finger in it beyond the nail!
The next site is tucked away in a Council yard. When I was working I had a key but nowadays I have to crawl through a hole in the fence! Sometimes that site is quite productive and on one occasion the hive had full supers rising head high, yielding about a hundredweight of honey. I have a couple of empty hives there. The first was tidy and untouched so I just looked in to make sure, following my previous experience, that it was mouse free.
The next hive was taller and on a slant as it appears that the pallet on which is stands has rotted. It needed squaring up so I started taking it apart. When I got down to the last super though, I heard a buzz and bees appeared! Not being kitted up, I gently closed up again and left them to it.
I went back yesterday to take a proper look. The bees are occupying maybe 5 frames. The comb appears to be fresh and built on the slant matching the slope of the hive, also there wasn’t enough to have contained sufficient honey to have seen a colony through the winter. There was sealed brood on several combs including a solitary drone cell. I uncapped this to see whether it had a mite or two inside, but the drone was still at the pre-pupal stage and so had been laid about 10 days earlier.
Thus the swarm must have arrived during the first week in April! I found the queen, large and dark, and gave her a blob of paint.
This isn’t the only place with early swarms as a friend from Cambridge way has gathered a swarm already and also lost one.
Maybe bee numbers will get back to normal this year.