The Apiary in April

As the weather has taken a turn for the better the spring flowers, many of them pollen and nectar producing, are in full flower much to the delight of our colonies of bees.

But as you can see from the main picture it is time to get those mouse guards off,  or the front of the hive will become very congested as fully-laden bees return, ‘bashing’ into those leaving by the main and only entrance.

It is now time to start those 7 Day Inspections to see what’s going on in the Brood Chamber and ensure the Queen has plenty of room to continue laying.

I’ve removed some deep combs from the Brood chamber which are jam packed with food, they haven’t had to use this winter/ spring, and replacing them with fresh drawn comb or foundation so they can expand the Brood nest.

It is too early yet to split up the Brood so I always put these new frames on either side of the sealed Brood, Grubs or eggs and then the remaking frames of food next to the outside walls of the hive.

Okay – who is not ready with a spare hive full of frames of Foundation and say one older drawn brood frame?  There are swarms about already!  Please don’t get caught out, even those of you whose bees ‘never swarm’.  Be prepared is the best way forward.  ‘Failing to plan is planning to fail’.

Bait Hive

Those colonies that intend to swarm, and with this warm weather about there will be a few, have already had scout bees out and about looking for a new residence.

I always put a Floor, Brood chamber full Foundation and one only Brood comb, empty super and crown board out at about head height near to where I can see it when I walk out my back door. The idea behind this is that it is away from the main colonies so should attract the scout bees and most importantly I can see it every time I go out into the garden giving me an early warning to check my colonies if I see a load of scout bees “sniffing around”

I was at an experienced Apiarist’s house in the week and he has his Bait Hive on his garage roof which he can see from the kitchen table when having his breakfast in the morning – absolutely ideal.

But please remember if a swarm does move in where ever you put it, you have to get it down in one piece and it can then weigh an awful lot more than putting all those separate hive parts up.  So strapping it together does help as would a ‘buddy beekeeper.’

Bailey Comb Change

This is a method of changing all of the ‘older tatty’ Brood Frames on a strong hive without affecting production of young bees or the honey crop.

National Hive overwintered on a single Brood Chamber

This hive is a National, overwintered on a single Brood chamber with the mouse guard still in place and is ripe for a full Brood chamber Comb change.

What you will need is a second Brood chamber full of new frames and foundation.

Take off your roof and crown board, smoke the bees down a little and then find the Marked Queen on a frame, which you should place into the new broodchamber of Foundation. The spare frame of Foundation put into the gap in the old/ bottom broodchamber or they will fill it with ‘wild comb’

Turn the mouse guard around to block the front entrance.

Then put your Queen excluder and thin wooden frame with an entrance at the front on top of the old Brood chamber.

New broodchamber with Foundation in and Queen on old comb on top then your crown board and feeder if necessary.

If there is a nectar flow on there is no need to feed, just put another Queen excluder on top of the new broodchamber,  supers on that then  the crown board and roof.

New Brood Chamber of Foundation showing Bailey Comb Change Queen Excluder and Feeder in place

After a week check all is going  well  and then after 21 days all the Brood in the bottom Brood chamber will have hatched and you can remove it to recycle the old frames and comb.

Then you revert the colony to normal take out mouse guard, take off Bailey Change Queen excluder and replace with a normal Queen excluder

Bailey Comb Change Queen Excluder (BCQE)

If you would like to try this and I repeat only with a strong colony and you need help making or acquiring a “Bailey Comb change Queen excluder” (BCQE) please speak with Brian or Chris who will soon put one together for you.

If you struggle to find the Queen just put new broodchamber on top of the old one with no excluder in between and once Queen is breeding in the top broodchamber, then slip the BCQE between and close lower entrance hopefully keeping the Queen in the top broodchamber.

If that doesn’t work call in your mentor or experienced Beekeeper.

The BBKA have produced the laminated sheet, below, to help you with the process and we have a few to distribute at the association apiary,  cost £1.00 and No! you don’t get a copy of the other side until you pay your money.

BBKA Laminated Sheet showing Bailey Comb Change procedure

Not the only bees in Town!

We will see lot of solitary and Bumble Bees on the wing at the present time and these nesting houses do work very well, I’ve used old bean sticks here to deal with the over crowding of the commercially made upper bee hous

Choice of Solitary Bee Houses

Next month – We will look at Swarm Control and what to do if you find Queen cells in your Brood chamber or a swarm sitting in your garden – even worse in your neighbour’s garden!

But again you will need a spare hive or Nuc box …..