Photo Careers Bee Hives (Deborah Blythe)

When winter preparations for our bees were completed in December little did we know what would be in store for us over the ensuing months. Fortunately the bees had been treated for varroa (mite parasitic to honey bees) in December and both colonies were each left with a box of supers (additional frames for feeding) full of their sealed honey to feed them through the winter.

Our bees have done very well with little intervention over the last few months. They came through the winter in fighting form and took full advantage of the lovely weather in April and May. Happily, the queen survived in both hives and as a result the numbers in the hives built up to full capacity. So much so that hive one swarmed.

Whilst the downside to that is the colony will have halved in number it is a good sign for the bees because it is their way of reproducing and increasing the number of colonies. The swarm happened recently. The old queen would have flown off with half the bees and set up home somewhere else (maybe in a tree trunk) leaving a virgin queen behind who will start laying eggs and thus build up the colony once she has completed her mating trip. Whatever the case they will know what to do to survive. They have been doing it for millions of years. 

They are at the gentlest when swarming because they will have gorged on their honey supplies to tide them over while settling into a new abode which could be inside a tree trunk. Before heading off they left behind a number of queen cells containing larva. At the time of writing this report it is hoped that a queen will have emerged from one of the queen cells by the end of June and will successfully complete her mating flight and will start laying sometime in early July.

The second hive has also been doing very well. The queen has been laying well and has used every last inch of space in the hive to lay eggs. We have now provided more space for her to lay eggs in the hive by adding another box of brood frames and honey super frames and hopefully that will prevent a swarm from occurring.

Sadly there will probably be no honey harvest this season as it is only right that any honey that is produced is left for the bees. However there are other treasures of the hives that can be enjoyed - bees wax candles - which I hope to have available later in the year.

In the meantime have you thought of planting a bee friendly plant for the summer? Bees need flowers to survive so why not help them by planting or potting a simple lavender plant.