Springtime 2021 is dragging its way into the bee calendar. March started with daily temperatures that barely reached 8 or 9°C. The first real opportunity was on 9 March when lunchtime saw 13°C and the bees went for it. You will probably be surprised to hear that bees don't poop inside the hive, unless they are every ill. Nope, they hold it in until it is warm enough to go outside for a 'cleansing flight'. I recorded a video on 9 March to let you see just how busy it was - all those bees desperate to go outside. Some were cleansing, some were gathering pollen, and the new born bees were hovering outside the hive for the very first time to get their bearings on what we call 'orientation' flights.
I am still feeding them because there is very little nectar about, and it is not warm enough ye in the day for them to go looking for it. The Snowdrops have gone over. so the next main source will be Willows, Ash trees and Blackthorn bushes. Keep an eye out.
The fact that these new young bees are out on orientation flights is good news for me. It means that the Queen is laying and new bees are emerging. It takes 21 days for a worker bee egg to become a fully fledged worker honeybee. Here's an amazing time-lapse video of how they change in those 21 days. In the video, you will catch a glimpse of the bees', and my, biggest enemy - the Varroa Mite. We'll talk more about that later in the year.
My next job, when it is warm enough, will be to replace the hive boxes with new ones or clean ones from last year. I will move the current hive to one side, put new or clean boxes in the original spot, with new floors, and transfer all the frames inside to the new clean boxes. This helps to rid the colony of parasites and viruses that have built up over the last year. I will take the old boxes back home, scrape off all the debris and sterilise the inside thoroughly with a blowtorch. This will also give me an opportunity to see how well the Queen is doing at producing young. The idea is to get the colony as strong as possible by the end of June, so it will collect more honey than it needs. July is honey collecting month for the bees. At the moment, the colonies inside the hives you see in the video will vary in strength from around 10,000 to 20,ooo bees. By the end of June, I want those numbers to be as high as 50,000 or 60,ooo bees in EACH hive. Now that is a sight and a sound to behold.
Let's take a closer look at what the bees are actually doing right now. Honeybees are described as a 'superorganism'. That is where a colony of organisms act and cooperate together for a single outcome. The 'division of labour' which determines how all the necessary jobs get done is largely apportioned according to the age of the bee. Young bees start off cleaning, and as their hormone glands develop, they become capable of more difficult jobs like wax comb production. The oldest bees go out foraging. Take a look at this video to get an idea.....