I can now declare that we are into the swarming season. Helen has been over to Hartfield where one of our members has Carnoleon bees and the biggest hive had queen cells in it and she carried out a split. Temperatures are gradually going up this week and the pollen from trees is at a high level. Conditions are becoming ideal for a strong hive to want to divide. My own strongest hive has seven frames of brood in a 14 x 12 box. There are a lot of bees but due to chalk brood my colony is not quite as strong as it might be. However I intend to do a shook swarm on this colony and one other next Saturday. The super I have on each of these hives, and in which there is a little nectar, will be removed and then given back to them once they have drawn out the wax foundation and built a brood nest.
Despite there being wild garlic, bluebells and blackthorn at the trout farm (and therefore a source of nectar) I will still put a rapid feeder on them and keep feeding them syrup until they have drawn all the wax out. Bees need a lot of syrup to draw out the wax foundation. A queen excluder will be put below the brood box for three days so they don't abscond. One needs to take this precaution as because there is no brood ( you are removing and burning it), there is nothing to anchor them to your box. The drones will be caught inside the hive but after three days, once the bees have committed to stay, I will remove the excluder and let the drones fly out. This is important because many of the drones will impale themselves on the queen excluder in their eagerness to get out and mate. Obviously this stresses the bees!
The month of May is the busiest season for our bees and for the beekeeper. However if you have plans of doing anything with your bees the month of May is the ideal time to do so. Our French colleagues say that any manipulation done in May usually works, even when done badly or wrongly.
Let me also take this opportunity to remind everyone about the Heathfield bee market on Saturday, May 14. Paynes and also the Pratts will be there selling equipment and giving advice if you need to ask experienced bee farmers any challenging questions. Keith will be there and Helen also will be there. There is usually a bee inspector or two as well! The Association has a plant stall and there will be lots of bee friendly plants on sale. Maggie Whittaker will have her own table. She used to work at RHS Wisley and if you want to buy interesting varieties of tomatoes or zucchini or possibly something interesting for the garden Maggie is your woman! She is also a beekeeper and a member of our association and will certainly be able to advise about plants.
There is a talk by Dave Goulson about bees and pesticides. He is a fantastic speaker and this will be worth going to. I have heard him speak and he is brilliant. It will be interesting not just for beekeepers but partners or friends of beekeepers.
In the afternoon there is the auction. Certainly worth a look but don't get carried away and buy things more expensively than if you bought them brand-new! If you have recently joined the association or are just a new beekeeper learning on Keith's course, then it is worth coming along and getting a feel for what is on sale and what beekeepers are doing.
A final word of warning. Someone's bees always seem to swarm on the day of the Heathfield bee market. Make sure those are not your bees! I look forward to seeing people and offers of help on the day on the plant stall will be gratefully received. Even if it is just to go and get those of us behind the stall a cup of coffee.
May 2016 Malcolm Wilkie