Malcom’s Topical Tips – March

Can you love your bees too much?

There is a buzz of excitement in my apiaries at the moment as the bees are flying out and bringing back pollen in quantity. We all breathe a sigh of relief when we see pollen going into the hive in quantity, as that indicates that the Queen has survived the winter and the colony is beginning to expand.

Mouse guards should be removed as this knocks the pollen off the bees legs as they struggle to get into the hive. If you have undersupered you now need to go back to the traditional configuration and put a queen excluder between the brood box and the super above that brood box. You might also use the opportunity for giving hive a fresh floor. Or if you have a blowtorch you can quickly clean up the floor while the brood box is sitting on the upturned roof before putting the hive back together with the traditional configuration.Do this away from the hive as bees don't like being blowtorched. Any wrapping that has been used to keep the hive dry over winter can also now be removed so that the sun plays directly onto the wood. If you are like me you will already have given them a pollen pattie last month in the hope that that will kick start the brood early. Each one of my 13 hives has wolfed down a whole pattie. The reason for putting neopoll on  is that you want a really strong colony next month when the nectar flow begins. I haven't tried any stimulative feeding to get more bees for the coming nectar flow but that may be a consideration for you. However, don't try it with too small a colony as that will stress them out and they just won't be able to process the sugar syrup.This is the one time when a light syrup can be used.

Another scenario for you may be one where you have been overgenerous in feeding last autumn. This means the brood box contains frames of stores which the bees have not even started to eat. If you have  'overloved ' your bees in this way they probably even have a super full of sugar syrup which they haven't touched. The consequence of this could be that there is no room for the Queen to lay. And that means that you won't have a colony big enough to collect the spring nectar flow and you will be denying yourself a spring honey crop. So what do you do? I have talked to Helen and this is her suggestion.

You have two options: a soft option and a hard option. The soft option is to place your super that is full of sugar syrup directly on top of the brood box without a queen excluder. All of the frames are stuffed full of sugar syrup so you need to remove one or two frames and replace them with foundation. This should be directly above the brood nest ( you can discover where the brood nest is by putting an inspection board in the previous day and seeing where the bees are working). You will also be able to feel the heat rising up from the brood nest. What happens in this scenario is that if the queen needs space, the bees will go up, draw out the comb, and she will then lay in the super on those two frames.

The hard option is to put your inspection board in, see where the brood nest is, and then go into your hive and place a frame of foundation next to the brood nest. You will then have to remove one of the frames of stores from the outside and shuffle along all the other frames. However you are not, and I stress not disturbing the brood nest. In this scenario if the bees want more space for the Queen to lay, they will draw out a frame of foundation and put eggs and larvae into that. Keith and Helen seem to differ about whether a frame of foundation will be drawn out at this time of year. I trust Helen on this one as she is far more generous in feeding and has had to rectify this situation in the past.

So you need to ask yourself the question, did I over love my bees too much last autumn. Did I, by overfeeding them, cause myself a problem now (i.e. no space for the Queen to lay) which is going to affect my honey crop this spring?Have I too many frames of stores in the brood box, the unintended consequence of that being that I am preventing the colony building up as rapidly as they should. And then I won't have the  number of foragers that I should to collect a spring honey crop! Only you can know if you have loved your bees too much.
Malcolm Wilkie 16/03/2017

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