A couple of days ago I started for the new season, to check colonies for need of food and for increase of space for bees and brood. I want to give you some glimpses.
I checked four apiaries that afternoon. In the first one I have 7 colonies.
- Colony 1: It wintered on three 12 frame shallow boxes. All colonies always have a lot of food for winter (most important so they have enough food for brood in spring and early summer). This colony for a couple of years have needed in my eyes too much thymol due to wingless bees. So I decided to split it and give the two parts a mature queencell. When I split a bad colony I keep the split (which is made including the queen, the two upper brood boxes) in the same apiary moving it to another place. It will this lose its field bees and it will be easy to find the queen and take her away. The split is colony 6 in this apiary. 2012 colony 1 needed 20 grams of thymol (to be compared with the at least 50 grams needed for unselected bees for varroa resistance). 2013 it needed still 15 grams in spite of the new queen, broodless period and a very big split taken. And the need came later in season so I wondered how to interpret this need. The virus probably was hanging around and making life miserable for the bees. The colony shrank in size in autumn, but kept the three boxes though quite some combs in the upper box were exchanged with insulation/dummy combs. I was a little worried for it. But now it made me happy. They are healthy with capped brood and increasing strenght of bees. They got the upper third box filled with combs, three of them foundation and one food. The queen is a daughter of the interesting queen H137, which had zero varroa infestation in the brood last year.
- Colony 2: It was a walkaway split last year from a colony about 4 km (2,5 miles) from this apiary. The third upper box taken without the queen. Thus it normally gets enough brood and food in that box, but without the queen. I shake all bees in that box down below and put the queen excluder on box two. I put the third back, for a quarter of to half an hour, and then take it on a new closed bottom (with the cover) and move it to another apiary. Also the way I takes it, it gets almost too strong, so I put another empty box with some food and drawn combs underneath it at the new place. The split made a new queen and grew enough, but barely enough, to be wintered on three boxes. It needed no thymol last year as a split. The third box was now filled up with combs of which three were foundation and one food. They looked very nice. Now the mother colony though didn’t look as fine this spring. I saw no wingless bees in that one, but it had had problems during winter and I had to take away the bottom box. It has been weaker and weaker all winter. Still it is not too weak and it had capped brood. I will give the mother colony 5 grams of thymol soon enough. This daughter colony no 2 in this apiary I will keep my eyes on for eventual need of thymol.
- Colony 3: This colony needed thymol early in the season and it didn’t grow well, so I took the queen away and gave it a mature queen cell in the middle of the summer. The colony grew well and wintered about the same size as the two mentioned. It was given combs the same way, but I was almost giving it a fourth box, the first above the queen excluder, but I concluded it can be done at the next visit. The mother queen to the queen is H109, which also is the mother to H137. H109 was old last year and began laying 50 % drones early in the season so I said good bye to her.
- Colony 4: This apiary was not a very good one last year. This colony 4 was the only one that gave a good crop in this apiary. Some years are like that. But instead this one gave me a crop for at least two, 130 kg with 23 kg left for winter (280 pounds + 50 pounds). And I used no thymol last year and none the year before, which was the walkaway split year. The mother colony (to this colony) 4 km away didn’t need any thymol either last year. But I hesitate using it for breeding as this apiary is one of the apiaries at the edge of the area with Elgon bees. Thus the queen may have been mated to non-Elgon drones. Should I care? And the colony uses a little too much food during winter. Temper is not the best, but quite okey. The queen is related to H109 and H137 but not close. It was full of bees on three boxes and got a super above the excluder with some foundation and three combes of food as it had very little food left.
- Colony 5: This is a walkaway split from a colony 4 km away. The mother colony actually is a walkaway split from Colony 4 above, though not mated in the other colony but in this apiary. And now another generation and mating in this same apiary. Could it be part of the explanation why this colony did not winter well and is very weak and showing wingless bees already now. The mother colony 4 km away didn’t need any thymol last year and has wintered well. I plan to combine this weak colony with another very weak colony from another apiary close by and give it 2-3 grams of thymol as soon as possible.
- Colony 6: This is the split from colony 1 in this apiary made last year. It needed just a little thymol, but much less than the part left as colony 1. It has a queen that is a daughter of S120, the swarm from the wall of the dog training center that had VSH-index of 50 % last year. It looks very nice. Got increase combs as colony 1, 2 and 3 to fill up the upper box no 3.
- Colony 7: This is a walkaway split from the apaiary 4 km away. The mother line is Kefuss, but that is now many generations back. But still some characteristics of this influence can be seen. Very little food used during winter, late spring build up, but quick when it has started, good honey crop in combination with Elgon. The temper is not the best. They want to swarm more. It is a little behind the others (1, 2, 3 and 6 to compare with) in development, but is coming fine. No thymol was used last year. And the mother colony didn’t need any either. Though the mother colony (in the other apiary 4 km away) defecated a little on the front of the hive.