As the days start to lengthen, those colonies that have come through the winter well with sufficient ‘workers’ will be encouraging the Queen to start laying well and replace all the older winter bees that have now in the main died off. This is why the stronger colonies will build up so quickly whereas the weaker ones just don’t have sufficient numbers to produce enough heat to breed, and take so much longer to recover as spring develops. In this often cold and very wet month our job as Beekeepers is to ensure the colonies are kept waterproof, well protected and of course well fed.
As they breed, the stronger colonies will eat their way through the winter stores, so ensure they have a good lump ofFondant directly above the cluster so if we get any hard frosts you will not get isolation starvation as the bees cannot move across the combs to access their food.
Please do not think putting Fondant over an access hole of the crown board will work, as it would be just your luck to find the cluster on the opposite side of the brood chamber! Flip off the crown board, put on your Fondant, then an empty super or eke, then put the crown board back on. If you plan ahead this will only disturb the bees for a short time and better that than starvation.
Those of you who have taken the risk of not putting on Woodpecker protection this is the month to be ‘very aware’. Warm days followed by hard frosts prevent the birds from ground feeding. If we get a sharp frost that continues into the day preventing the ground from ‘thawing’ the Woodpeckers will look elsewhere to feed and the softwood walls of brood chambers are easy pickings.
On a more positive note when the temperature rises sufficiently, the Bees will be out collecting much needed pollen from the spring flowers/ bulbs and the early flowering trees or shrubs such as Pussy Willow or Hazel. It is always a good sign that all is well in a colony when you see those heavily laden workers returning to the hive carrying ‘big bags’ of pollen on their back legs – much needed food supplements for the growing young grubs.
You can of course if at all concerned that the workers are not getting out to collect sufficient Pollen, towards the end of the month, put on a Pollen Pattie which the equipment suppliers are selling in 500g packs.
This of course is your choice as is all ‘things’ to do with Colony Management and if the Apiary were all well fed in the Autumn they should have sufficient stores to get them through this cold wet spring.
Best bit of advice for this time of year is take a look at what equipment you have, well maintained over the winter months, then think what happens if your hives swarm! It is a good time to buy spare hives and bits and pieces at the spring shows which you can pre-order to get the best discounts.
Have you a Poly Nuc ready to go just in case you find Queen cups/ cells and you need to remove the Queen and prevent swarming? Those of you lucky enough to hear Celia speak recently at one of our winter meetings realise you have to plan to separate the flying bees from the brood to prevent the Bees from swarming once they decide they’re off. Again your choice how you manage this.
How old is that veil/ suit? Mildew and patches just don’t look right amongst all the ‘newbies’ at the Association Apiary and veil manufacturers are offering big discounts at this time of year.
A number of you purchased colonies from Denis’s Apiary last year and those that survive the winter will need a complete comb change as many of the original combs are antiques!
Next month we will look at a ‘Bailey Comb ‘change but you will need a spare Brood chamber, deep frames for your Brood chamber, deep foundation and a dummy board.
Catch those sales at Beetradex ……