Changes and disaster can come from a most unexpected quarter.
Consider a number of hives at the edge of a field and the bees are doing their stuff, unaware that a farmer is also doing what he does too. Suddenly the hives are catapulted in the air (possibly) and /or knocked over. What seems to have happened is that the plough caught a fence-wire and drove off. The wire must have gotten taught as the tractor moved away and then the posts snapped off which must have hit 5 of the first 6 hives as you can see. Even the end-post with diagonal supports in the ground snapped like a match-stick.
As a result of all this, the end hive super is now upside down in front of where it should be and the brood box is upside down with frames askew and a house-brick on the frames and behind hive 4! Others are up-ended or knocked over. The wire fence is diagonally across the field and the end beehive from the other end of the line of hives can be seen in the background.
And the tractor drive said “I think I knocked over one beehive – I don’t quite know what happened” As a result 4 of the colonies are OK. The end hive – a little miffed whilst I put it back together – is now queenless. I suppose it could have been worse!
For those who study such things, there is a mixture of hives on show. Nationals, a couple of 8 frame boxes, one upside down – and a couple of nucs.
Much has been written about the ‘Beast from the East’ – the weather was poor for a couple of spells and this has had an effect on colonies. I have spoken to a number of beekeepers who have lost colonies so I now have a waiting list for this years nucs. A decent colony should get through winter OK even if the weather has been pretty damn cold although I was a little too complacent last autumn and should have combined a couple of small colonies with others. As it is, a couple of 3 year old queens failed to get their colonies through and a small nucleus colony failed too – it was marked as ‘weak’ in October so there was no surprise and it would have been OK with a mild winter. It should have been combined with a colony headed up by an old queen. One nuc had just one small frame of brood in it when I checked a couple of weeks ago – so hardly enough to get through another cold ‘beast’ but it is viable which is the main thing. One good thing was that my 3 year old breeder queen which has produced some excellent daughter queens is still good.
Two aspects I noticed a couple of weeks ago – when the weather was really too cool to inspect (!) was that a) the colonies were smaller than I would expect for the second half of March and b) there was almost no pollen in the hives. With plants now flowering and some warmer weather for some days, that should be rectified soon enough. Pollen is the protein source for bees and without it, there will be no brooding.