“Spring is the time of plans and projects” - Leo Tolstoy
It has been a funny season so far and rather cold and wet with temperatures yo-yoing. There have been days when it has been difficult for the bees to get out and forage.
At the Association apiary we have opened up the colonies with the beginners group. In the largest colony a few drones were present and there was drone brood. In the general environment flowering plants have been held back by the cold, but this is about to change. Next week forecasters are predicting a hike in temperature. Make sure that once temperatures are 16° you take a good look at your bees and do the first thorough inspection. The bees are about to go crazy. They have been incarcerated in their hives and as soon as they can they will want to swarm. Find out what the little beggars are up to.
Lesley has seen fields of rape in full flower in Catsfield near Hastings. Near the Slab Castle apiary there is a field of rape coming into flower. Rape is like a bell weather signal; once it comes into flower it indicates that there is a lot of nectar in the environment. Once that is the case our charges are going to want to swarm.
If you have a large colony you will need to go in and check that there is space in the brood nest for the Queen to expand into. If you loved your bees too much last autumn, you may have to remove some stores. If you have a box full of bees then you will need to add a super, preferably of drawn comb. However, if they haven’t expanded into the whole brood box you may need to wait, otherwise the colony won’t become as big as you would like. You could always place two frames of foundation in the middle of your super so as to give the bees something to do if you do add super.
If the colony is really small, think about using a dummy board or even putting the colony into a poly nuc box. This sort of colony will certainly not make you spring honey. However if you get it right, you could get a Summer crop. As soon as temperatures go up they can expand rapidly.
Remember, it is one thing to get a colony through the winter. However, it is another thing to manage the colony so that they will make you honey. Getting a handle on swarming is how you will manage them in a way so as to get honey. It is so disappointing when you lose 3/4 of your bees over the hedge. I hope every single one of you has a plan in place.
With the beginners we are having a session on Saturday at the bee shed making up equipment. If you need assistance and advice with making up equipment, then you could always come along.
Remember being prepared (having enough equipment) and knowing what you’re going to do about swarming makes all the difference. Just reacting to the ensuing chaos is not an option! Please, please be prepared.
Malcolm Wilkie 9th April 2018