March 18th - March 25th
Mixed weather brought sunny spells and chilly winds this week, meaning we had to take advantage of the warmer moments to observe any activity.
Linda, with her microscope, confirmed the tiny bodies of dropped varroa mites in the Welham apiary this week, which kept the team busy. We were eager to see bitten off legs, which shows that the bees aren’t just grooming off the mites, but attacking them too. Sadly, our sample mites were intact.
Varroa - Linda Parry microscope image
’Freda’- Very busy flying and using all three entrances of their Freedom Hive.
Freda busyt with bees flying
Druid - At last, a busy hive! Such a relief to watch these girls coming and going. The incoming warmer weather should enable us to observe pollen being taken in.
Winifred, Alison & Sylvia
All three of these colonies are nicely sheltered in their small orchard apiary and often seen flying when the other colonies are still tucked up in torpor. This week, where the temperature was mild enough, we lifted the lids of their WBC hives to check on their wellbeing. The WBC hive is great for early checks, as the extra ‘lifts’ offer protection and minimises disturbance. The crown board on top of the brood boxes has an opening, which was busy with bees in every hive.
Sylvia bees busy above their crown board
Winifred crown board
We added some feed, a mix of fondant and pollen, a couple of weeks ago as this time last year we lost some colonies due to the extreme changes of weather and starvation. We didn’t have honey to feed Alison and Winifred as they were new splits from last Summer.
We also checked the trays beneath the hives for indications on their varroa status. All the hives have Bee Gyms fitted, a chemical-free grooming aid. So varroa mites are scratched off by the bees and fall through a mesh floor. We are now experimenting with solid floors, hoping to encourage a favourable environment for pseudoscorpions, who eat varroa mites. Last seen in the UK in the 1950s, prior to mesh floors and chemical treatments being used in hives, pseudoscorpions could be an answer to supporting bees in their fight against varroa.
Pseudoscorpion and varroa
Emily- Despite it being chilly, the hedgerow protects this colony. They are our oldest colony, and always the first to be seen flying.
Emily protected by hedgerow
Holly- Not checked this week
Cuppa & Compass
Seemingly recovered from their hives being blown over, both colonies were seen flying, even in a chilly ten degrees. Cuppa had signs of defecation outside their entrances. Bees are particularly clean inside their hive and have ‘cleansing flights’ when the weather allows. If they have been stressed, or kept in for too long, they aren’t able to fly too far away before relieving themselves and so marks can be seen on the hive entrance.
First of the dandelions. Perfect food for bees
Oak Tree wild bees It absolutely lifts my heart every time I catch these bees flying. Their hive is in a hole in a tree, about 18metres up, so we’ve never been able to get close. Spotting them takes a little skill during the winter months as the bees are merely tiny moving dots going in and out of an entrance in the trunk.
Spot the bees
Lime tree wild bees Not checked this week