Spring is nearly here. We have lost the bitter cold in Brittany and most of france that has been around for the best part of the last 2 weeks. The wild Salix is starting to come into bud and some bees are beginning to come and go from the hive in the middle of the day at the peak of day time temperature. The visits outside the hive this time of the year are more for the bees to relieve themselves of the waste products within the hive.
If we get a period where the temperature rises to more than 14 degrees you will very quickly see a large amount of bees buzing around the hive.
They will be primarily cleaning themselves but if you watch you will soon see some bees emerging from the hive carring underneath them, bees that are dead , dying or otherwise designated no use to the hive and therefore to be disposed of !
One of the other main jobs within the hive is also to immediately re stock the hive with pollen from outside ( if availible) and sugars ( honey ) from else where in the hive. The main problem with bees in the winter is that they may have sufficient food within the hive but they sometimes just cant reach it if the temp is just too cold.
Bees become progressivly lethargic as the temprature falls. If you have fed candy during december and you are able to see the bees you will notice how quickly this is removed from its packaging and taken in the hive.
You will also notice more pollen coming back in to the hive.
There are a few mature gardens near my bees that have large early flowering camelia bushes in. Most Camelias are a really good source of pollen and you can watch the bees on the shrubs and also returning back to the hive with this bounty carefully loaded to their legs.
Hopefully with in the next 2 or 3 week I will be giving my hives their first inspection. I will be watching the temperature carefully that it about 14 degrees or above and I will also be going to treat the hive against varola mite which will have weakened the hive over the las 5 months since my last inspection.
I will also be cheching for any diseases such as American Foul Brood (AFP) and European Foul Brood which can take hold ( more so over the winter months) and devastate the hive well as possibly infecting the hives of my neighbours.
If you find or suspect foul brood within your hive then you must inform you local "Defra" In UK or for me in France the" Department Service Vetrinaire".
You cannot treat this disease but you can move the hive off its stand, place a clean hive in its place, fitted with brand new frames and undrawn comb. Brush all your bees off each old frame one frame at a time in to the new hive untill the vast majority of bees have been brushed in to the new hive. Put the old frames in to a sealed bag and destroy them by burning.
Try to find the queen during the transfer, as there will be no eggs on the new frames for the bees to make a new queen . If the queen is missing or she is damaged during the transfer then the colony is lost. Feed your newly hived colony with pure liquid sugar. They will very quickly recover as if they are please you have given them a new clean home.
They will draw up their new way frames with amazing speed as though you have just hived a spring swarm.
Also during the inspection I will be feeding the bees with half a litre of sugar syrop per hive.(for the next 3 weeks) This is a great way of stimulating the queen in to increasing her egg laying and hopefully getting the colony away quickly for an improved spring build up.
I will let you all know how I get on. In the mean time I will be finishing the "how to make a Nuc" but its taking a little longer that I thought.