The Apiary in March

Title photo by David Hayworth

As the weather warms and more spring flowers burst into bloom, we will see the colonies working the flowers for pollen and nectar.

But March is always a fickle month warm and dry one day and then frosts, wind and rain the next.

Those colonies that can, will be out early once the hives have warmed up and stagger back with heavy loads of pollen ready to feed the ever growing number of brood and young bees.

It is time to take off the Woodpecker protection and see what Varroa numbers, if any, are dropping onto the floor slides, although in this cold weather treatments may be limited.

If you fed well in the Autumn and have put extra Fondant on if necessary throughout the winter they should have plenty of food.  But if not you can feed a weak solution of syrup.

I expect like most of you when I come to do my first full inspection next month I will find brood combs full of food and the Queen searching for somewhere to lay.  That’s why it is always good to plan ahead and have empty brood combs you can place  on the outside of the brood nest so the Queens can expand their laying. Maybe a good idea to put a deep box full of foundation above the Queen excluder on your strongest hive so they can draw out the Foundation ready for the spring flow and after extraction you have plenty of new brood combs!

I see we have a lot more spring oil seed rape around this year which towards the end of the month is four foot high and starting to flower but this is far too early for most of our colonies to take advantage of due to their restricted numbers and the cold weather.

Field of Oil Seed Rape

It is time to open up those “bee sheds” get all the equipment out and spare hives out on stands, ready for the first swarms. Remember last April, due to the warm spell we had we were chasing very early swarms.

Once the weather improves next month I will be opening hives and marking Queens before colony numbers increase and she becomes more difficult to find, let alone catch, ready for any swarm control methods I use – the essential part of which will be finding the Queen.

Those early spring flowers like Blackthorn, wild cherry and Pussy Willow are in full bloom by the end of the month we can just hope weather is warm enough for the bees to get out and plunder these natural resources.

Loxley Churchyard
Loxley Churchyard
Blackthorn
Vinca Major in a hedgerow

If you are unlucky enough to find any dead hives please remember to seal them up so other colonies do not rob them out spreading diseases and  parasites such as Varroa.

My advice is to burn the combs the bees have died on and sterilise the rest if they are reusable combs using acetic acid.

Full details on Bee Base www.nationalbeeunit.com ‘Fumigating Comb’

Next Month: Hive inspections and have you sufficient supers to get you through the season?

Choose your swarm control methods and practice what you intend to do, before climbing trees to collect the swarm you missed!

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