Topical Tips – “First Inspections” – by Steve Davies

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.

  1. How many frames of brood are there and in what stage (eggs, larvae, capped)?
  2. Is the brood healthy or are there any deformities?
  3. How many frames of stores do they have?
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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

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