Sunday 29 March 2009

I was stung twice while I was planting potatoes this afternoon, one on each eye. That's Hive 5; I can't wait to get rid of that queen!

The bees are flourishing despite the cooler weather last week. Hives 2 and 4 now have big patches of brood on two frames, and look as though they're about ready to expand onto a third. Once they've got bees hatching from three, they build up pretty fast.

Hive three is also on two frames, but only with small patches of brood. It's expanded a bit since last week, but the number of bees is dwindling as the winter bees die off, and it's looking pretty weak. Hive 5 has five frames of brood, which is ridiculous for March. If we get a wet April they'd be in danger of starving with a decent amount of stores, never mind this year. The silver lining is that there's a good bit of drone brood now. The plan is to start queenraising at the beginning of May, by which time there should be plenty of drones in the hive.

The resulting queens will be crossmated, but never mind. Drones come from unfertilised eggs, so when I do my main queenraising at the end of August or the beginning of September, I'll have loads of drones of my strain, and no foreigners. So I should get well-mated queens at that point.

All the early spuds are in (Duke of York, Arran Pilot, First Earlies, and Charlotte, Second Early), and I'm about to start on the maincrops, Cara and Pink Fir Apple. I'm using a bulb planter, which is OK as long as the soil's not compacted, and a real pain to force in where it is. I'm putting loads in this year, and using them to sort out a rather weedy area. I'll get most of the ground elder out as they go in, and the rest when I lift the crop.

Friday 20 March 2009

The bees show quite a change over the last few days, since it's been warm enough for them to be bringing in significant quantities of pollen from willow and blackthorn. A week ago, it was too cold for them to be flying, and they didn't like being opened at all. Serve me right for bothering them! The two colonies with my own queens were fine, but the other two were flying off the comb like mad, and trying to sting the whole time. Today, they weren't bothered by my intrusion at all.

They all had big patches of eggs and open brood, showing that the queens have been busy over hthe last few days. Hive 5 now has brood on five frames, the rest on 1 1/2 or 2. Hive 5 has a patch of capped drone brood. A drone pupa is a lot bigger than a worker, so the cells are larger, with domed cappings, and bulge well above the worker brood around them. As soon as I have a reasonable number of drones - which will be by the beginnig of May at this rate - I'll be able to raise new queens and replace the two I didn't breed myself.

Apart from that, all the onions are now in, and I've started planting the potatoes.

Saturday 7 March 2009

I've managed to emerge triumphantly from a clean Windows re-installation with everything still working. It's a job I hate, but I hadn't done it for several years, and the machine was getting badly cluttered.

I took advantage of the mild day to check the bees. Hive 5, as I expected, is expanding its broodnest merrily, with brood on three frames. The others aren't expanding at all yet; I wouldn't expect them to with no appreciable food supply available yet. Hive 5 was stingy, with bees jumping off the frames. All the more reasoin to requeen it ASAP. The only blessing is that a rapidly expanding colony is likely to have early drones. Once there are a reasonable number I can raise a new queen. She'll be crossmated, but drones come from unfertilised eggs, so they won't be affected, and I can hope for well-mated queens later in the season.