Anyway, the colony survived the winter, although I’m not 100% happy with its current state. This may be because I cocked up the feeding regimen over the dark months. Basically, you should feed a colony over winter to keep its feed stores up, generally with fondant (remember when I did this in 2013?)
However, this year, the adorable Mrs Hiveminder said to me she’d got a load of old fondant icing lying around and did I want to use that instead of buying some special bee stuff?
Of course, being the cheapskate that I am, I said yes, and I duly packed the said icing into the feeder and served it up to my bees.
What I didn’t do was follow things up to find out if they actually bothered eating the stuff.
Turns out bees don’t like old fondant icing.
So when I checked them in April, I found that none of the icing had been touched. To be honest, if it hadn’t been for the fact that the colony swarmed last year and was pretty much queenless for a time, resulting in higher than normal feed stores, I doubt if they would have made it through the winter.
However, they seem to be OK now, although – as I say – not massively lively. I was actually worried when I looked in a week ago that the queen wasn’t laying properly. The brood pattern looked a bit ‘pepper pot’ – lots of empty cells. It looked a bit better today (see picture), so I’m hoping it was just a temporary aberration.
What’s also a bit embarrassing is that I haven’t yet spotted the queen this year. I really need to find her and mark her. Someone’s obviously laying, so she’s there somewhere. But I’m still not good enough at identifying different types of bee yet.
I’m actually quite a rubbish beekeeper really.
The only positive thing I can say is that I’ve definitely worked out how to keep the smoker going. There’s always a bright side, eh?