Finally, the cold weather seems to have
come to an end. Over the last month there has been heavy rainfall and the
ground is moist. Temperatures have jumped and horse chestnuts and hawthorn are
in flower. In consequence the bees are going crazy, and the nectar is flowing
into the hives in great quantity.
Somebody once said to me that the
difference between a good gardener and a bad gardener was one week. The same is
true of beekeeping. Most of us more experienced Beekeepers are aware of what is
going on in the environment and with this current flow we are sticking supers
of drawn comb onto our hives. Personally, I expect this flow to continue for
quite a while. This is because we have had such a rainy time recently and the
moisture has gone deep down into the soil. Brood boxes are going to become
nectar bound very very quickly. You may have to remove pollen banks or frames
of stores and replace with foundation to keep the bees working and busy. You
may also need to put your empty super just above your brood box. Or of course
if your Bees have not swarmed this is an ideal time to put a super of
foundation above the brood box as it
will be drawn out very quickly. Consider not putting the queen excluder on for
three days to encourage them up if this is the first super of the season for
that colony. Then go back after three days and put the queen excluder in
between the super and the brood box.
For those of you who are just weekend
Beekeepers please be aware that if you do nothing about this flow the brood box
will soon become congested, and of course this will trigger the bees to divide,
and you will find swarm cells in your colonies in next to no time.
I have been hearing from a lot of
people in the Association saying that their colonies are really low on stores.
Colonies with supers on them will be fine but a lot of you will have colonies
either that have not grown sufficiently to have had supers put on them, or
colonies that have been split. If your bees have already gone into Swarming
mode and you have taken the Queen out on a nucleus, then your old queen and
that nucleus box may well need feeding. The same applies if you have done a
Pagden split. The parent colony with a virgin hatching will probably have your
supers on them and that will not be a concern, but your original Queen on the
old site will definitely need to be fed. I always feed the old queen because
she has a box of foundation but others sometimes just let them build up on the
nectar flow with a super of honey (I have never got this to work myself). With
the latter scenario, if you are not feeding, that could well be a disaster.
The irony is that we have now had a
huge dump of rain. To be honest I have never seen anything quite like it. When
driving back via Wadhurst the other day there were rivers of brown water
pouring down the road carrying with it run-off from the fields. You will all be
aware that the horse chestnut are now in flower and the bees avidly collect
nectar from these trees. However temperatures are not great and the bees are
not able to get out as much as they should. It’s not until the middle of next
week that things are warming up and the bees will then be able to collect what
is,in fact, an abundance of nectar in
So if you have a nucleus box or a hive
with only three or four frames of brood and no super, then you should think
I am also concerned about any new
Queens and whether temperatures are adequate for them to get well mated. People
consider good matings happen when temperatures exceed 20°. I already know I
have one partial drone layer :they are already building Queen cells to replace
her but I may well just chuck them in the hedge. I have the old queen as an
insurance policy anyway so with all
these boxes mushrooming around my apiary I am not that concerned! Let’s all
pray for some better temperatures soon! Yet again we are having an
exceptionally different and difficult year and a different set of challenges to
cope with from any previous year I have known.
I don’t know if you are like me, but I
am just fed up with this long cold spring. My colonies, however, have steadily
been growing and I have had to put supers on them. There has recently been a
steady nectar flow which I presume is mainly from rape seed oil. Near Lesley’s
garden in St Leonards there are five or six fields of rape and near my other
apiary in Kent Street there are also yellow fields. A bit of a curse really as
that honey will granulate in the comb unless I get it off next weekend.
Despite cold temperatures yesterday
Lesley and I looked through the colonies in her garden. Five out of the six
colonies are making swarm preparations (several eggs in queen cups and also
charged Queen cells). Please don’t be fooled into thinking that the bees are
not plotting just because temperatures are low!
In a day or so night-time temperatures
are going to jump to 8 or 9° and daytime temperatures are going to go to 15 or
above. What is the consequence of that? Well, this hike in temperatures
(although it is not a huge hike) coupled with some rainfall later tonight is
going to give us perfect conditions for colonies to divide and propagate their
genes. So, I bet your bottom dollar that if you have a large prosperous colony
then they will be off before you can say Jack Robinson.
I am not thrilled about all of this as
Thursday and Friday are not predicted as good weather and yet I am going to
have to go into several colonies in order to take the Queen out on a nucleus.
At least all my Queens are marked so I am hoping I’m going to find them without
too much difficulty. This year I decided not to move the Queen out until the
Queen cells are well developed as I wanted to guarantee that they would be of
the very best quality. Let’s see if that makes a difference. But the
disadvantage is that I may have a devil’s own job in finding the Queen. She
will have been slimmed down for swarming and if she is laying no eggs then it
will be much more difficult to find her among the 60,000 bees that Lesley has
got in some of her colonies. Let’s hope I don’t have the scenario that I had
once where I had to search for a whole hour for the Queen, only to find her
eventually on the inside of the box! When it comes to swarming time, queens are
not always where you think they might be!
So, my advice to everyone is to be on
the qui vive. Once you have got a nice, charged queen cell, then divide or take
the Queen out on a nucleus.
Please don’t forget the parent hive.
Mark your chosen queen cell with a drawing pin placed into the top of the frame
where it is situated. Then five or six days later go back and remove all
emergency Queen cells that the bees will disobligingly have created for you,
leaving only the chosen queen cell that will now, at this stage, be sealed and
about to emerge. Respect your timings or you will be in trouble.