Spring clean washout

Plans for an outdoor spring clean were a washout today. It started to rain as I left the house to meet Emily at the apiary, and it fell heavier still as we lifted the roofs off our hives to check the fondant underneath.

Patience’s bees had eaten almost all of their pollen cake and were enthusiastically polishing off the crumbs. The colony had also eaten into the second block of fondant, although it looked like they wouldn’t need the third block after all. I removed this and covered the hole that was left behind with some tin foil. (If you remember in November last year, I used John Chapple’s trick of layering blocks of fondant one on top of the other with a hole between each block for the bees to crawl through.)

Why did our bees need so much fondant? We didn’t take off honey from the hives last year, because the bees had barely made enough to eat themselves during a challenging season. But in November it appeared that they had eaten through most of their stores. The fondant was left on top as a failsafe when I closed up the hives in November knowing that there was a chance I might not visit the apiary again till March.

Hope’s colony was still happily overwintering in the polynuc with a full complement of bees covering every frame. But the nuc felt light and low on stores, and workers were frantically flying in and out even though it was raining.

Emily and I stood and chatted in the rain as we rolled up fondant balls to give to Hope’s colony. We tried our hardest not to disturb, or squash, the bees as we put the sugar between the top bars and in the feeder compartment. However, a small party of workers flew out expressing their displeasure with a loud, high-pitched buzz. They soon settled down once they discovered the indoor picnic we had given them.

I love watching bee tongues slurping. They are so complicated yet so simple – basically the proboscis is made of two tubes that suck up nectar, honey, water or sugar (and occasionally sweet tea at our apiary) with a pumping action. (Please excuse the blurry close-up – it was taken with my mobile as it was too wet to bring out my DSLR.)

The weather forecast for Monday and Tuesday is sunshine and clouds. I saw some wet wildflowers growing along the roadside on my way home. Hopefully, they will dry out overnight for the bees to collect nectar this week. The rain had also ruined plans to clean out the pond, although the fish didn’t seem to mind.

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13 thoughts on “Spring clean washout

  1. I love your post and read every word and have for years. I keep hoping to have bees someday. If I read enough on your post perhaps I will be lucky enough to keep bees and eventually meet with some success! Thank you for posting pictures and information – it means a lot to me 🐝🐝🐝

  2. Thanks for the update! Love the pictures and glad to see the bees are doing well. We’re expecting freezing whether and a lot of snow this week, so hope you enjoy your sunshine and clouds.

    • Thanks for the update too Erik – I’ve noticed that we seem to get the same weather a few weeks after you, so might delay our comb change for a while. I hope your bees stay nice and warm while it snows, Emma 🙂

  3. Hello Emma,

    Thank you for beekeeping notes. Most enjoyable. You may be interested in my recent facebook posting at Suffolk Wildlife Trust and Sinfield Conservation Trust. When I say my postings I do the footage and leave the technicalities to the tech savvy one’s. This is relatively new but hope to expand in the future.

    Neil & Sammy Page in Ipswich

  4. Pingback: YEP – Ghid in Natura

  5. It is interesting that you overwintered the bees in a polynuc. I often wonder what would be the correct thing to do here if we ended up with a small colony in a nuc in the autumn. I don’t think I would like the idea of combining it and losing the queen. Your weeds look very similar to ours at this time, all the different bees love the red dead nettle. Amelia

    • Hi Amelia, I know how you feel – I always try and save queen and colony, and combine as a last resort (usually to deal with drone layers). It is unusual to overwinter in a polynuc but I must say it has kept our weakest bees so warm they seem to have thrived overwinter. Fingers crossed all will be well at our first inspection. Best, Emma

  6. Lovely to see the Bees slurping away at the fondant Emma.. and it shows how much they have needed over winter.. Yes very wet again.. and cooler from our blip in high temps last week..
    Wishing you a good week and It was lovely to catch up with you again.. 🙂 And Know the colonies are doing ok..
    Love and Hugs.. Sue xx

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