Last week's sunshine and warm temperatures meant that we were busier than usual with our bees. The first inspections of the year revealed that one colony had not survived the winter; it was the weakest one, so it was sad but not a surprise to lose it. We cleaned the hive by blow-torching the wooden brood box, burning the frames and washing the plastic floor, and will filter the wax for candle-making later in the year.
The other colonies however are thriving, so much so that we took the decision to split one of them, moving the queen and three frames of brood, food and bees with her into another hive. Those left in the original hive had already started to make a new queen, evidenced by cells containing royal jelly. We left them with one cell, breaking down the others, and will leave that colony alone for a couple of weeks to allow the virgin queen to emerge, mate and begin to lay.
We also decided to put out some bait boxes - small hives with just a few frames of foundation in them, liberally sprayed with 'bee charm', designed to attract any swarms that happen to be in the neighbourhood. Bait boxes are also a safety net of sorts - we may catch our own swarms if we've missed any queen cells in our hives! A friend from Bee Club, Tony Dixon, made us two superb bait boxes, which we then hoisted up into a couple of trees at the top of our garden. (When I say 'we' I mean Kevin aided by my dad, Alan, while I looked on and mum, Vera, took photos..!) We'll check these regularly and hopefully will add some more bees to our collection. Luckily the new hives we bought last week are now painted and ready to receive their first inhabitants.