Spring is here again, so I thought I would detail the first inspection of the season to show how the hive has changed over the last 11 months.
Going into winter I left the 12 partially capped ideal frames and 8 stickies in the supers and they were partially filled again before the season was out. As an additional experiment, I left the queen excluder on this hive, with the top entrance remaining closed.
On Saturday the weather was finally warm enough (although a little windy) to carry out the first inspection of the season. This inspection was to confirm that the queen had made it out through winter, and that the colony has maintained numbers and is starting to build up with the nectar/pollen starting to come in.
Removing the lid and hive mat revealed a strong number of bees in the centre of the top super. The hive mat had done its job and kept the burr/bridge to a minimum.
Down between the bars you can see bees clustered. (a little dark sorry)
The top super was still largely full, but not capped. The lower super was lighter, probably around 25% full of honey. Working down through the supers (with both supers removed), the number of bees increases as you approach the brood box (a good sign). Once again there is a minimal amount of burr comb build up on the excluder.
Removing the queen excluder revealed a ‘waffle’ like effect caused by the bees building comb in the small gap between the top bars and the excluder.
This was quickly and easily cleaned up with the hive tool.
Removing brood frames revealed some great results, with a huge amount of uncapped, capped and recently hatched worker brood. The drone brood is still kept to an absolute minimum (top and bottom edges) due to the full width foundation that was used to begin the frames.
An example of some of the frames:
Full coverage of worker brood, with some pollen/bee bread backfilling the honey arc above the brood that was depleted over winter. Impressively, newer capped brood (lighter yellow) is at the top left of frame in the space that was originally filled with honey. Very limited drone comb at the top of the frame (around 20 cells) and the bottom edge/right corner of the frame.
Full frame of bees (bees were shaken off before photo). Large amount of older worker comb (which is now darkened) with a very small amount of drone comb across the top of the frame, and the centre bottom. Although the photo doesn’t show it, this frame was filled with eggs and uncapped brood.
A frame that may raise some concern with new beekeepers due to its ‘shotgun’ pattern through the brood. In this case, all uncapped sections through the brood are either pollen or uncapped brood. Once again, the lighter yellow capped brood now replaces the honey arc that was there leading into winter. A large concentration of bee bead at the top/centre of frame. The uncapped drone grubs at the top of the frame are due to the drone comb bridging between frames and being damaged when the frames were manipulated (separated). A very limited amount of drone comb at the left and bottom of the frame.
A close up of the above frame showing the concentration of beed bread/pollen and uncapped brood in the spaces between capped cells. To the observant beekeepers, the perforated cap is where a ropiness/AFB test was carried out (with no issues).
In summary, the brood looked extremely strong with huge number ready to hatch. The primary concerns requiring action were that it appeared the queen had ‘laid out’ the entire 10 frame brood box (of deeper Unreal frames!), so even with the increase in brood space… and solid brood frames… space may be an issue. The only other concern was the build up of pollen/bee bread in the brood chamber which is common leading in to Spring. Although it’s expected in brood frames, it can quickly turn as returning bees backfill the brood frames with pollen before the queen lays, resulting in ‘pollen locked/bound’ frames.
With the pending boom in bee numbers I decided to add back two supers to give the new additions to the colony some space to move. Although not directly alleviating the issue with brood space, it does provide space for bees to move up to avoid congesting the brood box. To encourage pollen to be placed outside the brood box, I opened the top entry for the first time. Although this is just a theory (based on my experience), having pollen placed in the super is a better short term issue than further congesting brood space.