Hopefully all of your bees came through winter successfully and are now bringing in lots of pollen. Please do keep a check on their food stores as there is still a risk of starvation, especially if we have a cold snap and there are more mouths to feed. If needed, you can either continue with fondant or give them a thin syrup mix (25% water).
With the improved weather you should be able to carry out your first inspections. Choose a dry (sunny?) day, 12 degrees or more and no wind. I use cloths to keep the frames covered and only expose one frame at a time. Although the queen should be easy to find, the reason for the inspection is to confirm the state of the hive.
- How many frames of brood are there and in what stage (eggs, larvae, capped)?
- Is the brood healthy or are there any deformities?
- How many frames of stores do they have?
- Importantly, how much space is there for the queen to lay? If all frames are full, remove one frame of capped stores (or pollen) and replace with a fresh frame of foundation. Put this next to the brood. If an outside frame has space, move this next to the brood.
- Consider putting on a super. If the brood box is cramped then this is a must. As well as storing fresh nectar, the bees will move honey up from the brood box creating space for the queen to lay.
- Finally, check for play cups / queen cells. There is an expectation that the swarming season will be early this year so you need to be prepared. Have you got equipment ready for immediate use and a plan of action in place? When I checked my hives yesterday, one colony had eight large play cups (almost queen cell sized)!
I hope you all have a successful season and get pleasure from your Beekeeping.
Steve Davies 29th March 2019