March is a key month for the colonies. The Queens should start to increase their laying capacity to increase the numbers of workers in the hive. Although the cold winter weather has not finished yet, this bees will be out on good days on cleansing flights and collecting pollen from the spring flowering bulbs and early flowering trees such as Willows and Hazels. They need this fresh pollen to feed the growing family in the hive and maintain the constant temperature needed for the development of brood to replace the older bees which have served their purpose over the winter and are now starting to die off.
Be aware that this is when the Woodpecker does most of their damage to unprotected hives as can be seen in a recently taken photograph. Fortunately the colony affected in the photograph is still surviving.
It is also time to get your Queen Hornet traps out just to see if the Asian Hornet has reached our County after the discovery of the nest in Gloucestershire last year. The Queen wasps are about on good days so you can bet the Hornets will be as well but please let the European Hornets escape they do little harm to our bees.
If you look in the March BBKA News there are some good pictures to show you the difference between the good and bad Hornets.
If you find a hive is short of food this is the month you can start to feed Sugar Syrup again as the bees will have no problem with condensation or hopefully movement within the hive as it starts to get a little warmer as the days get longer. If you don’t have a feeder a Honey jar which has had small holes punched in the lid will suffice as the vacuum formed, when you invert it over the Queen excluder or crown board holes, will prevent it dribbling onto the bees. You can of course use your Bee-Pattie or Fondant that is still soft and easy for the bees to consume.
As you would expect among Beekeepers there are various opinions on whether you should provide insulation or not as the case may be during the winter confinement. But if you intend to do so and are using open mesh floors this can be a good time to put some on and help them keep the hive warm as they increase the size of the brood nest. You may find carpet off cuts which fit on top of the Crown Board, weave side down, work well or the “Skip divers” amongst you might be able to find some insulation board the builders have thrown. Insulation board can be cut easily with a Stanley knife to the right dimensions. It helps with insulation board if you use Gaffer Tape to make a handle to get it in and out if you don’t fit into the top of your hive roof. When some of the hives boxes were replaced at the association apiary one of our members (CR) built the insulation into the roof as it was put together. We used a thin modern foil insulation and no “Skip diving” was required!!!
As we fast approach the ‘Show Sales’ you may want to review your needs for the coming season. One hive on its own never works especially as we move towards the swarming season. Ideally you should have a spare brood box or two or a few Wooden or Poly Nuc boxes.
By the end of the month you should have scorched and sterilised all your spare equipment ready for the first inspections for the season. You can then replace any floors as you go through the inspection, scorching any removed before using on the next hive. Any frames purchased in the sales should be built and ready for putting foundation in. All we then need is some virulent breeding Queens and the right sort of weather. There is a lot of early Oilseed Rape around this year so get the hives prepared early with plenty of storage room for the gathered nectar and don’t force them into a swarming mode because they are overcrowded with nowhere for the Queen to lay.
Last advice for this month think. Think about how you intend to keep your hive records. Records should allow you to look back at the performance of this hive, inspection dates, and if any treatments have been added. How you do this is your own choice but I find a small hard back book, completed after each hive Inspection does the trick. If you are keeping your records on the hive ensure it is in a plastic bag or file sleeve or the bees whilst bored will chew it up and throw all your lovely records out of their front entrance. ( Hard back books can be found in ‘The Pound shop’ or ‘The Works’)