This is getting boring.
They are quite docile when they swarm, I could get up really close to take this picture and I wasn't even wearing a hat. They fill themselves with food before they fly out with the queen.
It is always the same hive that swarms (this was the first warm, sunny day for weeks) so there is definitely a rogue gene pool in this colony. It means we should really think about buying in a new queen.
We only had one suit here so Peter had to sweep them up himself. He put them into a small temporary hive (a lure) with a frame of brood from the old hive. Now we have to decide whether to merge the temporary hive back in with the old hive or not. Swarming really disrupts the honey production cycle. With the bad weather we are looking a meager harvests this year.
Added a box with F-frames to each of the hives (except the one near the house in Rosendal).
...but it's raining so hard, the bees are all at home, in the dry. Midsommar 20.6.2015, cold and damp.
We had a swarm in Espoo but managed to bag it and return it to the hive. We have tried to find the queen but there are so many bees in that hive we have failed (twice) to find her even though we were both kitted up in the full suit and went through every frame. The only way to be sure there is a queen is to look for fresh brood.
I was a bit worried that the dandelions might divert the bees from pollinating all the berry bushes but I think they like some variety in their diet because I did spot a few on the gooseberry bushes which are now flowering: The blackcurrants should start flowering within a few days too.
Dandelions are an important part of the bees diet providing amino acids needed for healthy hives. As the dandelions start to bloom there is an audible buzz in the air coming from the fields that are gradually carpeted in yellow.
Last autumn Peter tried his hand at marking one of the queens: his first attempt. Well, he messed up a bit and managed to get green paint on her head as well as her thorax. We were worried she might not survive. Anyway, today we opened up the hive to check things out and add a box. There was plenty of brood and down there he saw the green queen in great shape working hard. What a relief.
The Espoo hives seem to be thriving. The one nearest the stream is packed full of bees with two boxes full of brood. With all the wind and rain we've been having recently, Peter is worried that they won't be able to forage enough food for the hatched youngsters. But over the stream there is a huge amount of food: willow in vast quantities and now dandelions too. This hive is very sticky, with a lot of propolis in between the frames.
We have started adding boxes and frames to the hives and they are all full of fresh brood which is great news.
The foragers are flying home packed with goodies, mostly from willow. There will soon be dandelions too. The Rosendal hive has almost completely devoured the Apifonda.
Peter ploughed some ground near the farmhouse in Rosendal. We will plant tansy there (hunajakukka) for the bees. But today it was too windy to sow the seeds and tomorrow it is going to rain all day. Tansy can produce the biggest honey yields and the flowers smell wonderful.
Some very blurry photos but you get the drift: the crocus are in bloom and the bees luv 'em.
Today Peter weighed all the hives in Pojo. (We are going to use a new numbering system but for the time being these are the old numbers.) These are the Oventrask hives:
#1 13 kg (L&F) - we "fed" this hive using a Farrar box of frames holding reserved honey from last year
#2 27 kg (3F)
#4 19 kg (L&F)
#5 17 kg (L&F)
#6 17 kg (L&F)
#8 18 kg (L&F)
And the one remaining hive in Rosendal:
#8 18 kg (3F)
The hives are weighed by lifting up the back of the hive using a fish scale. This is accurate enough to determine if the hive contains enough food to keep the bees alive until there is an abundant supply of food. Over the next month we will monitor the situation and give Apifonda (bee cake) to any hives that need it.
We use oxalic acid as a preventive treatment against the varroa mite with a dose of 25-30ml per hive (from a mixture of 75g oxalic acid powder diluted in 1 litre water + 1kg sugar)
We treated the four hives in Espoo yesterday and the hives in Pojo on Friday. It was opportunity to take a peek inside the hives.
In Espoo three of the four hives are active (but no brood yet) and have cleaned out after the winter. The fourth hive (the so-called nasty buggers) is still in a small ball and not active. It is very small and we think it unlikely that it will survive. We need to take a closer look to figure out what the problem is but it is too cold at the moment (we are having frosts at night).
In Pojo one of the Rosendal hives is empty. This is the hive that we moved from Espoo and installed on the foundations of the old barn. There were no signs of intrusion, mould or anything else. This was a split hive and possibly too small to survive the winter. All the other hives are in great shape.
I stopped at the supermarket on the way home from work and got home at midday. It was very warm and sunny - I was planning to do some tidying up in the back garden in Espoo. But... when I parked the car in the front driveway I could see clouds of bees humming around three of the four hives we have here. I went to take some photos and one little bee came and sat on my coat as I walked around! I noticed they were hovering over the heathers that I planted in pots for some winter colour. They were also drinking water from pools of melted ice on the driveway. I think they are very hungry and very thirsty. Time to to get some Apifonda into the hives before they wear themselves out. They look pretty healthy and very active.
The bees need to clean out the hives in the early days of spring which means removing all the bee poop and cadavers from inside. They seem to make a big mess on the outside of the hive when they do this. Today's busying around has left a sweet honey smell in the air - incredible.