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This month in the apiary

Thoughts on this month in beekeeping by Janine Sparks

APRIL 2024

The weather has been a wash out in March but in between the rain, my bees have been going mad, bringing in lots of pollen. Looking at the forecast, it looks like temperatures are gradually creeping up and I am hoping to do my first inspection towards the end of the week if I can find a slot when it isn’t raining!  

When I go into my colonies for the first time in the year, I am always a bit apprehensive; what will I find, will they be calm, have I forgotten what to do! So I will start off by getting everything I might need together, spare supers with drawn comb at the ready, and ensuring that all my protective gear is ok, I don’t want to start the year with a sting!

1. What’s going on in the hive?

Bees will be flying every day this month whenever the weather is suitable, for cleansing flights, orientation flights and foraging.  Before you go in to inspect, take a moment to observe the outside of your hives – there should be a steady flow in and out, and ideally pollen going in.  The queen should be laying like mad now and there should be lots of new bees emerging.  Remember this is still a vulnerable time for the hive, especially with the very wet weather we have had; will they have enough stores to feed the colony when it is not possible to get out, and is there enough forage out there that hasn’t been washed away?

2. Check your hives

Warmer days are forecast later this week (above 15 degrees C) and the minimum overnight temperatures remain high, so this is an opportunity to check your bees.  Take a view at the time on how thoroughly you inspect – if it is not as warm as you would like, then make it a quick check, but if it is a glorious warm day you could do a more thorough inspection. The main points are space – add more space before they need it, and stores – you can add heavy syrup now if need be.  If the weather is good enough, then also check:

– the brood nest for signs of foulbrood and other brood diseases. 

– the queen, if you don’t see her, then make sure you can see eggs and larvae in all stages.  

– any signs that they may be thinking about swarming – it is early yet but remember that bees don’t read the books!  Hopefully you already have your swarm prevention plan prepared and ready to go!

– general colony strength- you could consider uniting colonies if any are struggling.

Don’t forget to make records about what you see.

You could also add a varroa board so you can start monitoring varroa.  

4. Check the larder

It feels to me that many flowers and trees are well ahead this year.  Next door’s laurel is in bloom, and blackthorn has been in flower for a couple of weeks.  The spring flowers have of course been in full swing too …. If only it would stop raining for a bit!! 

5. Looking ahead 

The BBKA spring convention is being held from 12-14 April at Harper Adam’s University in Shropshire, and I will be attending again with my sister who is now a Master Beekeeper.  I will do a report back as usual to accompany the next newsletter.