Malcom’s Topical Tips – 2017 March 28

SOS - super now

We are very early in the season because we are still in the month of March, however there is a nectar flow on at the moment. Believe it or not rape seed is now coming into flower and we are still in March!! The fields around Lamberhurst are yellow today. At Mount Camphill on Friday the large ornamental cherry tree was abuzz with honeybees. At the slab castle apiary the blackthorn (sloe) is in full flower. In Hastings there are trees after trees awash with spring flowers and the presence of these spring flowers coupled with high temperatures are enabling our bees to bring back nectar to the hive.

Experienced beekeepers have been aware for a number of weeks now of the unusual high temperatures and activity in the hives has been strong. Those of you who do not work have been able to choose a nice day to go through your hive or hives quickly. You have realised that with a very strong hive there is a lot of brood and as Keith taught you, you have put on a super to allow the bees room to expand. Those supers are currently filling with nectar! If, like me, you have ignored the warning signs of high activity in a strong colony and not yet supered, you will find yourself with comb built above the crown board and stuck to the roof. When you remove the crown board there are bees everywhere.

So what do you do? You will have to go in and smoke the bees down, scrape all the honey off the top of the frames and then put on a queen excluder and give your charges a super. It may be wise with a strong colony like this to examine them on Thursday (March 30th) when temperatures could get up to 20 degrees, to check that they are not building queen cells. Sid Hook tells me he has drones in his hives at this very moment. Temperatures are not so high on Sunday but if you work and have no other option, you will have to do it then. The season is kicking off with a vengeance!

The majority of you will not be in this situation but sit up and take note. You need to put a super on your hive. This can be drawn comb or a mixture of drawn comb and foundation. If the foundation is old it must be warmed up by using a hair dryer. Don't think you can dispense with the hairdryer because the bees just do not like drawing out old wax and in the long run you will make work for yourself by not freshening up the wax. Some foundation in your super box is a good idea so that the young bees can make wax; young bees without the possibility to make wax will trigger swarming in your hive. Keep your bees busy and it will take their minds off swarming for the time being and, of course, give you a spring crop. Be warned  supering and choosing the right moment to put a super on is part of swarm control. If bees don't have room to expand, they swarm!

With a small to middling sized colony they sometimes ignore the super completely.  Box clever, put your super on without a queen excluder. Go back three or four days later and if they are working the super pop your queen excluder in at that stage. If you are a Newbee and only have foundation, this is the way to proceed to tempt your charges to draw out the foundation for you. Remember foundation is more likely to be drawn out if it is placed above the brood nest.

In colonies with lots of young bees now is the moment when you can replace a couple of old brood frames with new foundation. All those young bees are desperate to draw out the wax for you. If you were organised last autumn you put the dirtiest combs on the edge of the box and it is these that you are now renewing.

Beginners should also take note of this email. The season is early and if they wish to obtain bees it is crucial that they have a hive ready. This hive should be in position and the frames of foundation should be made up so that  they can be placed in the hive at a moment's notice.

Keith and I are holding a session on keeping control of swarming on Thursday the 6th of April at Cross in Hand at 7.30pm. Given the early nature of the season it won't be a moment too soon for us to hold this session. Swarming is never easy and cannot be controlled 100%, but having a strategy in your head and a hive ready or a nucleus box ready, will help. Remember to let Rosemarie know if you are coming.

28th March 2017 - Malcolm Wilkie

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