Topical Tips – “Colonies expanding rapidly, be warned” – by Malcolm Wilkie

It’s now time to have the first inspection. Temperatures are about 14° and on a nice sunny day without much wind you will be able to have a look at your bees.
If you wrapped your hives in breathable membrane, that should be removed now. I find the bees start to chew it and get caught in the woolly strands.
There is a nectar flow on at the moment and colonies are expanding rapidly.

My Buckfast colony had built comb above the crown board. I should have been lifting the lid weekly to check what they were up to.

Colonies  that are prosperous need to have a queen excluder put on them and a super of drawn comb above the queen excluder so that they collect you honey. Any delay in putting on that super at the moment could cause them to swarm early. Be warned!

If you are a beginner and do not have drawn comb then you will be putting a box of foundation. If it is foundation that you have to use, make sure that the wax is fresh or has been refreshed, and don’t put the queen excluder in. Go back after three days and check if they are drawing out the foundation. If they are drawing out the foundation at that moment you can pop in the queen excluder.

If like me you did not mark your Queens in the autumn (a sensible decision because you would not want a queen to be killed in the autumn) now is the time when you can mark your Queen. The colonies are about to explode in numbers but at the moment if you know how to look for your queen you will probably find her. She is dominant because she has survived the whole winter and that means that if you mark her they are extremely unlikely to ball her and kill her. Marking your queen makes swarm control so much easier, believe me!

For marking your queen you will probably be using one of the pens that one buys from a bee farmer. Be warned they can be leaky, so try it out first on a piece of wood. You don’t want to drown your queen! Yes I have done it, and no I wasn’t pleased with myself!

I have learnt with bees that if I think I should be doing something, then I need to get on with it straight away. For example I found comb above the crown board yesterday and so I went back later in the afternoon and gave them a super straightaway. There were just so many bees I was astounded, and it was a little bit messy because I should have put the super on last week.

Be proactive everyone and prosperous colonies will collect you a Spring honey crop.  Any delay now in giving the bees room and you are going to be in trouble.

Malcolm Wilkie
27th March 2019

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