We completed our marathon bee safari on Saturday 4th May. Starting in sunny Sarre at 10am, things looked set fair for a good day. Sam and Jean’s hives were strong and placid, and set the benchmark against which we could compare other hives. We then dashed down to David in Canterbury, and saw bees in a cosier location, but again in fine fettle. Greg’s apiary in Littlebourne was tucked away, but revealed lots of hives ready for expansion from the 3 hives currently occupied.
Over to Kingston for 1.30pm, and at the top of a long lane, we found two hives. Roland’s was a little windswept and with varroa damage evident, and Angela’s hive, though less exposed, will need some additional warmth (i.e. a smaller box) to nurse it through. By the time we got to Jason and Jo’s apiary in Coldred it was cold, as the wind was really blowing – usefully demonstrating the effectiveness of the windbreak they have around their bees. The three colonies were really bumper boxes, with brood on most frames, and getting ready to swarm.
We took a little extra time looking at Jason’s big colonies, so were running about 25min behind schedule by the time we got to Folkestone. Dougal’s garden was nicely sheltered, and again had very healthy colonies, with enough sealed brood to start to plan for swarm control; and we marked his queens as well. Finally, at about 5.30pm, we dashed up the hill to Lyminge where Lynda’s worries about having a weak colony were soon allayed, as her bees had been very busy using the syrup recently provided to fill her broodbox, and again, need supering and/or swarm control.
Thanks to all the hosts for letting us see their bees, and especially to Michael Cooper for spending a whole day with Canterbury Beekeepers. I’ve posted a picture of each of the apiaries in our gallery (http://canterburybeekeepers.or…..k/gallery/) as a record of the wide variety of apiary sites and equipment – seeing such a range is a real benefit of the bee safari.
In terms of the notable elements of the day, we saw strong colonies and a few weak boxes, we found and marked several queens, and we found and destroyed several wax moth larvae (by following their white trails). Disease-wise, we saw some chalkbrood, dysentry, deformed wing virus, and observed varroa both in their phoretic phase, as well as on pupae (by forking out drone comb). Clearly not all bees have fared equally this winter, and depending on location and autumn health/feeding, the bees were well advanced in their expansions, or still struggling to build up.