Helen has opened up her hives and there are already drones. She has poly hives so her bees will have been kept snug over the winter and will be ahead of colonies kept in wooden hives.
Last year the poly hive at Slab Castle had drones in early in the season and they swarmed in April. I suspect Helen will not be the only one who has found drones at a time of year when one would not be expecting to see them. Be warned, the season is early.
Do your calculations. For a drone to be produced it takes 24 days. So during that warm spell in February the bees had already started their plotting. Those drones will perhaps not yet be mature enough to mate but in another 10 days or so they will be mature. That means by mid-April the bees can produce Queen cells and they can swarm. I hope you all heeded my advice and have cleaned up your equipment and started building those frames.
Several of you took my advice and overwintered small colonies in poly nuc boxes. It’s incredible how bees prosper in these! This is the way to go if you want to sell nucs! People who have done this are now finding that there is incredible activity at the entrance with bees piling into the nuc with their pollen baskets fully laden. You are going to have to do something soon. Either you sell your nuc, or you hive it to let it expand naturally. Here is my advice if you do hive it. Place one frame of foundation next to the sunniest side of your box, place your bees next to that (the nuc will be exploding when you open it up and there will be bees on top of the frames, if this is not the case don’t hive them yet), place another frame of foundation on the other side and then a cellotex dummy board. In other words only give them two pieces of foundation to work on for the time being.
To encourage them to draw out the foundation you can feed them syrup now. However be careful what sort of feeder you use. A doughnut feeder would be good but a contact feeder would be a mistake. That is because with such a contrast between day time temperatures and night time temperatures a contact feeder can sometimes empty its whole contents over the bees and you will drown your colony and probably kill your queen.
A lot for you all to think about. I hope you all are ready for the inevitable.
The session on controlling swarming is on the 3rd of April.
There is also a talk in Uckfield about dealing with the Asian hornet. If that becomes a problem over here I suspect over three quarters of you will give up keeping bees so if you can get to the talk, it would be a good idea to go and hear how they have coped with the invasion in Jersey.
March 22nd March 2019