Topical Tips – “Large colonies are about to swarm” – by Malcolm Wilkie

I don’t know if you are like me, but I am just fed up with this long cold spring. My colonies, however, have steadily been growing and I have had to put supers on them. There has recently been a steady nectar flow which I presume is mainly from rape seed oil. Near Lesley’s garden in St Leonards there are five or six fields of rape and near my other apiary in Kent Street there are also yellow fields. A bit of a curse really as that honey will granulate in the comb unless I get it off next weekend.

Despite cold temperatures yesterday Lesley and I looked through the colonies in her garden. Five out of the six colonies are making swarm preparations (several eggs in queen cups and also charged Queen cells). Please don’t be fooled into thinking that the bees are not plotting just because temperatures are low!

In a day or so night-time temperatures are going to jump to 8 or 9° and daytime temperatures are going to go to 15 or above. What is the consequence of that? Well, this hike in temperatures (although it is not a huge hike) coupled with some rainfall later tonight is going to give us perfect conditions for colonies to divide and propagate their genes. So, I bet your bottom dollar that if you have a large prosperous colony then they will be off before you can say Jack Robinson.

I am not thrilled about all of this as Thursday and Friday are not predicted as good weather and yet I am going to have to go into several colonies in order to take the Queen out on a nucleus. At least all my Queens are marked so I am hoping I’m going to find them without too much difficulty. This year I decided not to move the Queen out until the Queen cells are well developed as I wanted to guarantee that they would be of the very best quality. Let’s see if that makes a difference. But the disadvantage is that I may have a devil’s own job in finding the Queen. She will have been slimmed down for swarming and if she is laying no eggs then it will be much more difficult to find her among the 60,000 bees that Lesley has got in some of her colonies. Let’s hope I don’t have the scenario that I had once where I had to search for a whole hour for the Queen, only to find her eventually on the inside of the box! When it comes to swarming time, queens are not always where you think they might be!

So, my advice to everyone is to be on the qui vive. Once you have got a nice, charged queen cell, then divide or take the Queen out on a nucleus.

Please don’t forget the parent hive. Mark your chosen queen cell with a drawing pin placed into the top of the frame where it is situated. Then five or six days later go back and remove all emergency Queen cells that the bees will disobligingly have created for you, leaving only the chosen queen cell that will now, at this stage, be sealed and about to emerge. Respect your timings or you will be in trouble.

Rape Field
Rape Flower
Rape Flowers
Rape Field2
Rape Field3
Bee on Rape1
Bee on Rape2

Malcolm Wilkie – 3rd May 2021

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