After last year’s loss of the queen and decimation of the hive, I was feeling a little nervous when we opened the hives at the start of Winter in late May. There was almost no brood, and less honey than we had expected. So it was a great relief when our bee keeper friend showed up unexpectedly and offered to check out the hives.
We have 2 hives and two queens. Queen Beresford was raised by him, and Queen Eleanor was purchased. There has been quite a difference in their behaviour. The first thing Eleanor’s hive did was swarm, even though she had a full hive to move into. Beresford just got down to work. By May in Beresford’s hive there was no brood at all but a reasonable amount of nectar and pollen and some honey. In Eleanor’s, much less food but a little bit of brood, and a lot of varroa.
The first thing he did was pick up Eleanor’s hive and declare that it was too light. So we went inside to make sugar syrup before opening the hives. This was very quick and easy – we boiled 3 cups of sugar with 2 cups of water until dissolved. Once it had cooled we poured it into a standard half pint jar and drilled holes in the lid with a tiny drill bit. Later when we had finished the inspection and varroa treatment, we put an extra super on top of the hive, covered the lid, upended the jar over the hole in the cover, and slid the lid cover out.
Queen Eleanor’s hive was even worse affected by varroa than before, and some of the brood we had seen previously was dead. Although we couldn’t see varroa in Beresford’s hive we decided to treat both hives, as it’s not always easy to see.
Queen Beresford had started laying brood again, and it was fascinating to hear that they often start laying pretty much right away after the Winter solstice. And I got to see her for the first time! She is the one in the pics below with the long golden abdomen, surrounded by brood at all stages and attendants.
There is plenty of nectar in Beresford’s hive being made into honey – there are still flowers around, with Rosemary and Mustard coming into bloom and several of the Salvias still flowering. Some of the native trees Puriri and Manuka are starting to flower as well.
Eleanor’s hive is going through the sugar syrup at a rate of about a cup a day when we are here to fill it up. The hive seems to be busy as well. Beresford’s hive is also busy; so as long as the weather isn’t too bad hopefully they will make it through with the honey they have stored away and the nectar still being collected, but we will check again in a month when we remove the varroa strips.
There are still likely to be some long cold and wet days to get through before we are safely into Summer, but things seem to be going well for now.