It is only the first of April but the weather has been great for a week. The bees are busy flying so it was a good opportunity to check them fully for the first time this year. There was quite a crowd at Hanbury Hall watching our first full inspection of the year.
Both hives have survived the winter. Hive 3 (the one on the right as you look at the hives) was building up nicely, with two frames with capped brood sections about 10cm in diameter. There were also grubs and eggs around the pupating brood. Because of this, although we didn't see the queen, the eggs and brood prove that she must be there and laying. The bees are bringing in two distinctly different colours of pollen packed onto their hind legs, so they must be working two types of flower, one producing a bright yellow pollen, and one producing a much redder pollen.
My pollen colour chart suggests that the yellow pollen could be crocus and the redder one snowdrop. The only way to tell definitively is to look at the pollen under a microscope because all pollens have distinctive shapes.
The second hive (hive 2) has a lot less bees in it and less brood. However, they still have some honey left over from the winter, so they should be fine if there is another cold spell. These bees were from a swarm gathered last year, so I am just pleased that they made it through the winter. This year they will hopefully build up nicely and produce us some honey.
My apiary is also doing fine, with three colonies surviving the winter and starting to build up nicely. The only problem I can see in the next couple of weeks is that the Oilseed Rape is starting to come into flower and there will not be enough bees to produce a really good crop of honey because it is just too early. Please farmers, go back to planting it in the spring ... then it ripens later! The current practice of planting the rape in the autumn means it flowers too early for large numbers of bees to work it, because the queen only starts laying when the weather starts warming up.