As we get into April the weather is still very dry with frosts at night reducing the activity in the colonies and making the early nectar flow intermittent.
Those close to fields of Oil Seed Rape will start to see it bloom into full flower but unless the weather improves there will be no nectar flow the bees can plunder, as it will just be too cold for them.
But this cold will hold back all the other spring flowers and after a little rain and warmth they will all bloom at the same time giving the “spring bees” plenty of choice.
When I opened my hives I found the inevitable lumps of solid Fondant which had to be scrapped off, put into a bucket ready to soak in water and use for feeding my Nuc’s.
But as ever some of the stronger hives caught me out by building wild comb in the eke above the brood chamber.
Please ensure you give the colonies plenty of room above the Queen excluder by adding a couple of supers. They may not be able to fill them with nectar just yet but all those hatching young bees have got to go somewhere.
If not you might encourage them to start making early swarming arrangements and once this process is started it is impossible to prevent without intervention by splitting the colony.
If you get a chance on a warm afternoon have a look in the Brood chamber and see if you have slabs of unused winter stores restricting the Queen’s capacity to lay fresh eggs.
If you have, leave a brood comb full of food next to the wall of the hive and remove the others (more food for my Nucs) replacing with drawn comb or foundation, but do not split the brood cluster. With all these frosts the outer combs may get abandoned and chill. (They die)
It is also a good time to get your bait hives out ready to attract any scout bees searching for a new home as swarming preparations are made back in their colony.
This will do two things, firstly get the Beekeeper into his hives to find out what is happening and secondly catch that swarm rather than losing it to a rival Beekeeper or a neighbour’s sealed chimney.
I put out an old brood chamber about 50 yards from the hives with an old empty brood comb in and fill the rest of the space with frames and foundation.
If you find you have caught a “stranger’s swarm” and you don’t have an isolation Apiary, before you move it to its’ new home next to your own hives, treat it for Varroa. All swarms carry a heavy ‘Varroa load’.
You can never have enough equipment and as it is inevitable that one or some of your hives will prepare to swarm so splitting the “Old Queen” into a Nuc will help to delay the process.
Then have a look through the brood chamber, choose a good sealed Queen cell and destroy the rest. I shake all the bees off the remaining frames so I don’t miss a hidden Queen Cell and then leave Nature to take its course.
The “old Queen” is a guarantee just in case the “Young Queen” fails to mate or becomes dinner for a passing Swallow but if all goes well just allow her to build up in her new colony. Decisions as to who you over winter can wait until August.
Next month hopefully will produce a good nectar flow and managing any honey crop we can discuss next month.