We managed to have a quick inspection of Hive Caitlin at the weekend when the sun was out and it was about 14 degrees.
The top super box had empty drawn comb. It looked old and probably needs discarding but I’ll check with a beekeeper friend. We removed it as it didn’t seem be serving a purpose at the moment.
The next super was full of stored honey. The smell was devine but it’s for the bees so no stealing it!
And finally into the brood box. The comb on the outer edge was empty, black and had some dead, decomposing bees stuck to the bottom. Having never seen this before,I felt slightly worried but I continued to go through the frames and found some capped brood near the centre, then some larvae in various stages, and then some eggs. Yippee – the Queen is there and she’s laying. There aren’t as many bees as I was expecting but then I’ve never seen a hive re-establising itself coming out of winter! Although we never actually saw the Queen, we moved the queen excluder to in-between the brood box and the super with the stores. In all likelihood she was in the brood box and we’d like to container her down there. I forgot to take photos because I was concentration of finding the queen, brood and any signs of disease – a mistake because it’s always good to go back through the photos and take a second look. However, Stuart and I agreed that we hadn’t see any obvious signs of disease, other than a little chalk brood, and there was signs of laying, so hopefully all good!
I wanted to change the hive floor because, when in cluster, the bees are unable to remove the dead bodies from the natural winter bee wastage. Stuart lifted the hive and I removed the old floor and put in place a new wooden open mesh varroa floor. However I wasn’t expecting to see quite such a black, sludgy mess on the bottom of the old floor. This matched the strange black decomposing bees on the bottom of some of the frames. Having researched it, there was no need to worry. It’s all looked perfectly normal for decomposing dead bodies and the black dead bees on the frames had probably fallen out of the cluster and got stuck between the frames as they fell to the floor.
The last thing to do before closing the hive, was to dust the bees with icing sugar. This encourages them to groom themselves and, in the process, will increase the Varroa mite drop. I’ll go back in a week and see what the count is and then take appropriate action.
We brought the old floor and the top super home for cleaning and disinfecting. I’ll ask my beekeeper friend whether the top super frames and comb are too old to be reused. And finally, I’ve got lots of research to do to put together a plan for replacing the old frames and comb and moving forward into the summer.
Unfortunately we didn’t have time to inspect Hive Rebecca and the weather has turned again. I’ll need to do that as soon as the weather allows and put a plan in place for the summer.