Third visit of the year but warm enough to open up the hives and check if all is well (queen alive/laying eggs; enough stores of honey or if they need feeding as they increase their activity in response to the warming weather; look for evidence of disease or infestation).
Both hives were busy with bees coming and going – loaded with pollen for on their re-entry. The bees were starting to build up stores of honey, although needed supplementing with sugar syrup at this time as there is lots of activity but relatively low stores at the end of the winter period.
It was also great to see plenty of evidence that the queens were alive and well: healthy frames of ‘brood’ – eggs and larvae of all stages of growth – building up nicely. We spotted the original queen, which wasn’t too hard as she had been marked with a red disc.
When inspecting the newer 2019 hive, we did not see the queen. This was a not surprising, as she was not yet marked or clipped. However, after inspections were completed, we lifted the roof to pour in some syrup into a feeder and Coran noticed the unmarked queen outside of the hive! She must have been disturbed when we were inspecting earlier but we are not sure why she came out as they generally spend their lives in the middle of the warm hive, laying eggs. Although she started to fly off, we quickly caught her, marked her with nice, bright yellow dots, clipped her wings and returned her to the middle of the hive again.
This was a completely unexpected fluke. Although the queen would have returned to the hive in her own time, once the danger of the inspection had passed it was a relief to know that she was safely inside. It was an absolute bonus to have spotted and marked her so that we can more easily identify her on future visits. Brilliantly successful day for the first inspection and especially for novice beekeepers!