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.
The weather forecast sounds promising for the coming week or so. All colonies now have a super; if the brood box is full of bees then a super goes below the crown board and one above. If the brood box is more than half full of bees then the super goes above the crown board. If the colony is weak no super is added. Nights can be cold during April and I don’t want too large a volume for the bees to keep warm at night. Providing a super over the crown board allows bees to ‘expand’ during the day but during the night they return to the brood to maintain the temperature.
Bees tend not to swarm in April but the swarming process can be triggered if bees consider themselves cramped. So it is important to give bees more space so they don’t feel overcrowded. If warmer weather is on the way we could have a honey flow and bees will need the room for the incoming nectar.
Finally, we are running a Zoom Improver session this Tuesday evening at 7.30. John MacDougal has kindly sent emails advertising this event and Richard Smith will be present to answer questions as well. If you have any points about the apiary notes or questions in general, do come along on Tuesday and we will try to answer them.