Changing of the guard
Graphs representing the changing population size of honey bee colonies often indicate a low point about now for bees living in these latitudes of Britain. The graphs are invariably very smooth — but is that really the case? Is the population change really so gradual?
The colony that has overwintered in the observation hive numbered about 2,500-3,000 bees until recently. The death rate, as indicated by the work of the undertaker bees, seemed very low. Very few dead bees were to be seen at the foot of the frame awaiting their exit.
Last week the weather was so cold that no bees could venture out but yesterday temperatures reached 10C. Flying time!
Lots took advantage of the better weather but this morning the population is noticeably smaller. Many — perhaps a few hundred — must have died on the wing. The left and right sides of the brood frame, which were quite well covered yesterday, are rather more sparse this morning.
Low and right of centre, the much tighter cluster (that has been there since the beginning of the month) shows where the queen began her season’s laying. She had been off-lay since last autumn but is now preparing her colony for the season ahead.