Finally the weather was good enough on Sunday to check the hives. It had been two weeks since we last checked and we were apprehensive at what we might find in the nuc. box.
Thankfully it was much better than we had expected. Bee numbers were high due to the frame of brood we had transferred from the prime hive. Predictably all the brood laid by the existing queen proved to be drones but on the transferred frame we discovered a capped queen cell. The bees are superseding the queen, who for whatever reason had failed to mate. It is a little late in the season for a small hive to start over with a new queen, but if the weather is good when she is ready for her mating flight and she lays well with a little nursing we should be able to carry the colony through the winter.
The prime hive is doing extremely well, five frames of capped brood. There were few newly laid eggs when we checked but the weather had been poor and stores were low, so the queen had more than likely slowed down a little. If the weather improves and with the ivy due to flower soon, stores will soon build up again.
We decided to set the prime hive for a varroa count, replacing the floor with a different mesh floor, below which we had placed a sheet of white card covered in olive oil. We then dusted the bees in the hive with a sprinkling of icing sugar. The icing sugar encourages the bees to groom, any mites will fall through the mesh floor, sticking to the card, giving us an idea of the number of mites infesting the bees. Hopefully not many.