Topical Tips – “Colonies are Hungry” – by Malcolm Wilkie

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 the environment.

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 about feeding.

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.


Malcolm Wilkie – 21st May 2021

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