I have been wanting to check my bees for a while but with a nod to my new-found bee knowledge, I wanted to wait til the weather was very mild and not breezy, so that I could open the hive up to dust them with icing sugar. The thinking is that they groom themselves and each other to remove the sugar, and in doing so, ping off any Varroa mites that have been latched on. I'd darned the holes in my veil and the elasticated cuffs of my bee suit yesterday evening and when the sun was shining brightly on the hives, I took the lid off and had a look. The smaller hive has a very small nest but that's to be expected at this stage in the season, but I did see the queen, eggs and capped brood, as well as plenty of pollen, so they look like they have done alright so far this winter. I put a desertspoon of icing sugar in to my sieve and gently dispensed it over all the frames of the brood box, and then tapped the last teaspoon over the bees in the super. They protested a bit but I put the crownboard and roof back on quickly anyway to try and retain the heat, and within seconds the rather disgruntled buzzing had calmed to the usual contented hum.
The hive at the front of the house is my original one, and contains the descendants of my first queen who was prolific and docile, and has passed the traits on to her offspring. They are still some of the friendliest bees I know, and due to my rather inexpert amalgamation of an artificial swarm, has over-wintered with two brood boxes. A quick look in the top box showed egg and lots of honey; I think they are going to grow in to a large and productive colony again this year. I'm hoping for some swarms so I can 'experiment' a bit with my apicentric theories by using frames rather than foundation and not using a queen excluder so she has the run of the hive.
I gave the bees in this hive a dose of icing sugar in the same way, and they didn't complain at all, even though they do look a bit ghostly:
I put the hive back together and left them to their grooming. I'll check the base board in a while to see if any varroa have fallen off...
I got in the way of their flight path as I was putting the roof on:
If we get another mild day in the next few weeks, I'll dust them again.