The Apiary in February

This is the month life in the Apiary starts to get busy for the surviving colonies.


After a cold snap at the start of the month, morning frosts will soon clear away to warm days allowing workers to get out for cleansing flights, water collection and the early pollen collection essential for breeding young bees.

It doesn’t take much of a rise in temperature for all the beautiful spring flowers to appear.

Cowslip
Primrose
Small Crocus
Dwarf Iris

The first flowers Snowdrops never last long but are the very first flowers available to collect pollen from, if the weather allows, but they are not as productive as say Crocus.

It has been proved, as with Nectar, worker bees will work the easiest most productive plants in their designated areas nearest to their hives. The large Crocus produce copious amounts of Pollen and the flowers are easy to get into. Why on earth would you struggle with smaller, less productive flowers?


Size does matter:

Snowdrop
Large Flowered Crocus
Joy of Pollen Collecting
Joy of Pollen Collection

Then the Pollen bearing trees, if the cold allows, will produce “tonnes” of pollen starting with Hazel (lambs tails), Blackthorn and Pussy Willow.

Blackthorn

As long as we don’t have any extended spells of cold weather the colonies can get around their frames in the hive gaining access to the needed food supplies avoiding Isolation Starvation.

You will need to keep hefting the back of the hive to ensure they have plenty of stores especially those strong colonies who will consume a lot of stores as they breed the next generation of workers. If in doubt a lump of Fondant above the cluster in a plastic bag, with a slit in the bottom, will ensure survival if needed. If they don’t use it it can soon be turned into sugar syrup later in the spring.

By the end of the month we should be able to take off the Woodpecker protection, their food supply of other bugs will become easily available as the ground warms up, and the wire stored on top of your bee shed ready for use again in the Autumn.

If you are unlucky enough to find a colony that has died out, seal the hive immediately or other colonies will rob it out spreading any diseases that may have caused their demise.


I always burn any frames/ combs the surviving bees have died on and the remaining ones sterilised using Acetic Acid but only the decent combs. Any stained with bee faeces or old combs are burnt. They’re not worth recycling for the wax in old brood combs.

Follow the National Bee Unit’s advice on Fumigating Comb www.nationalbeeunit.com

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Before the bees get really active it is a good time to borrow the Association Steam Wax Extractor you can put old combs into. You can then use the Association Stainless Steel Wax Extractor to clean the wax from the horrible dark colour it is when initially rendered down, to a lovely yellow colour for wax exchange into foundation or making candles.
Will stores all the Association Equipment at his farm and is only a phone call away to “click and collect”.

It is far too early for my liking to be going down into Brood Chambers examining hives. When you can wear a ‘T Shirt’ comfortably outside then it is time to look at Brood and baby bees. You will cause more harm than good.

But start to prepare for the season ahead. Last year I got caught out with swarms in late April from some of my strongest hives so this year they will get two supers on early to give them enough room for all the new young and enthusiastic to move about and not think about breeding Queens!


The up side of that is I had plenty of 2020 Queens which have all mated well and come through the winter well, so far, ready for a good season ahead.

So it’s time to get all the kit out of the bee shed and see what you are missing for the season ahead, frames part made up without foundation in as of yet, and spare hives or Nuc’s ready for those inevitable attempts at swarming which we as Beekeepers try to avoid – some better that others!


If you started keeping bees in the last couple of years and have one hive in your Apiary are you prepared if it decides to swarm?


Manufacturers all still have some bargain prices around and our local maker and builder of “wooden hives” David Cotterill on the Fosse Way near Wellesbourne is busy building up his stock of equipment.( No – I’m not on commission!!)

Next Month:

Buying and Selling colonies in the spring and preparing for early Honey flows.

Plant close to the Hives