Seasonal Beekeeping Notes – by Myfanwy Blissett
If you haven’t done so already, it’s time for a full inspection. The bees are very active and numbers in the hive are increasing rapidly. Pollen and nectar will be coming in and the queen should be laying well. Check the entrance first, there should be plenty of activity. Open the entrance further if there are bees pushing and shoving to get in.
Remember Hooper’s five questions:
- Has the colony enough room?
- Is the queen present and laying well?
- Is the colony building up well / are there any queen cells present?
- Any signs of disease / abnormalities?
- Has the colony enough stores?
Check for varroa and treat if necessary.
Mark and clip the queen if you can, it’s easier to do it now when there aren’t too many bees in the hive. It’s not vital to see her on every inspection, if you see eggs you know she was there in the last 3 days. Continue with inspections every 7-10 days.
Strong colonies may need a second brood box so the queen has sufficient room to lay.
If there’s not much forage you can get the bees to draw out new brood combs by putting on a second brood box containing 4-6 frames of foundation with dummies either side. Put a feeder on top of the crownboard containing 1:1 syrup, the bees will act as if there’s a nectar flow on and build comb. Check in a few days and add more frames in the middle as needed. Keep a close eye on comb building so syrup doesn’t get stored in the new combs. It’s good practice to remove the old, dark brood frames regularly and replace with new ones.
Be ready for the honey flow in your area, put on the queen excluder and at least one super, continue adding more as needed.
As we go into May we need to be ready for swarming, so have a plan! Have spare equipment ready for the control method you choose.
www.theapiarist.org is a good site for information.
Always fill in a record sheet for each colony, it will help you with your next visit.
If you’re not sure what to do at any stage, close up the hive and ask someone with more experience.