April 2021 Apiary Notes from Wally Thrale

There has been the occasional warm day over the past weeks that allowed inspections. For the first inspection of the season my main priority is to find the queen, clip and mark her. When bees are producing queen cells it is normally easy to find a marked queen. Carrying out an artificial swarm does take time and often several colonies are at the same stage, each taking a period of time to deal with. As marked queens are much easier to find it saves time during this process. Having a clipped queen does not stop swarming but it ‘buys’ me a few days if the weather prevents regular inspections. Swarms normally settle nearby to their home hive and check that the queen is with them. If she isn’t the bees return home sometimes finding the queen. It is not unusual to find a swarm under the floor of the parent colony and I check the floor first before opening a hive during swarming time.

Last spring we were basking in record amounts of sunshine and the bees took advantage of the good weather. This spring is so different; in fact I cannot remember the last time April has been so cold. The forecast for next week shows a small improvement but with the potential to cool down next weekend. So how are the bees coping with weather?

Well when the weather allows bees are bringing in pollen and they will be increasing the amount of brood. My stronger colonies concern me as they are more likely to die out from starvation as they have so many mouths to feed. Normally I top up a few colonies during spring but this year I find that feeding is needed much more than usual. My bees have happily taken down syrup for quite some time now so there shouldn’t be a problem using syrup rather than fondant. A lot of my bees are on OSR but are not able to work the crop yet – perhaps the cold conditions are holding back flowering so hopefully we will have better foraging weather before too long.

When the weather finally improves bees will work hard and we need to be ready for when this happens. Now I can use my vehicle to access my sites that are on farmland I shall move spare supers to each apiary along with empty hives in preparation for artificial swarms. This weekend I made up brood frames with foundation in readiness for comb replacement and artificial swarming. On the top bar I write the year number so I know how old frames are in the box; the oldest ones are replaced when the weather allows.

Do enjoy your beekeeping for the upcoming season. There will be fine weather before too long so do ensure you are prepared. Finally, if you haven’t produced nucs before do consider making some up to overwinter. Nucs are a great insurance for winter losses.