I am pleased to say that both Meridian colonies at West End apiary survived the winter and as soon as the weather warmed up, in March, we were eager to open the hives and evaluate their progress.
It was noted that there was brood and eggs present but the bees were only using 6 frames in each colony.
Spring is a good time to give bees new clean foundation. Various research suggests new clean foundation invigorates the bees and reduces the likelihood of any potential diseases, that the winter bees may be harbouring in old comb, from developing to critical levels.
There are two main popular choices for replacing old comb,
- a Shook swarm or
- a Bailey Comb change
I was reluctant to carry out a shook swarm as there were too few bees and I didn’t want to lose all the young brood which, if allowed to develop, would boost the hive numbers. Therefore, a Bailey comb change seemed the way to go.
On 26th March, Stage One commenced by placing a clean brood box with clean frames, complete with foundation, on to the top of the existing brood box, matching the number of frames used by the bees and placing a dummy board each side. A feeder of 1:1 syrup was placed on the top of the crown board and the hive was left for a week.
After seven days the new brood box was checked, the Queen was found and moved into the upper box onto a frame with a few eggs and larvae. A Queen excluding Bailey board (with an entrance eke) was placed between the old and new brood boxes and the original entrance was blocked.
At this point the weather changed and became very cold, which gave me sleepless nights worrying that I may have killed the Queen. Research suggests that should the bees have a choice to save the brood or the Queen, due to extreme temperatures, they will save the brood.
It was an anxious time waiting for the weather to warm up sufficiently to open up the hive again to see what had happened.
Three weeks later, I opened both hives to find to my relief that both queens were happily laying lovely brood in the fresh foundation. Some capped brood were still in the lower old brood box and I decided to remove these frames and complete the comb change early.
- The whole hive was moved to one side and a clean floor put on the stand
- The top clean brood box with the queen and new frames of foundation was placed on to the floor.
- The Bailey board was removed
- The hive reassembled with the syrup feeder on top of the crown board until it was empty.