Well here we are again at that mad time of year when the garden is taking off, and the bees are getting restless, with swarm prevention techniques in full flow. I did a demaree on both of my hives, and successfully created 2 nuclei, one from each of my hives, so I now have 4 colonies. The demarees were partially successful – one went well whilst the other hive struggled to draw out the fresh comb and I think the queen scarpered – my theory is that it was a bit too cool for wax making and I have made a note to self to not attempt a demaree too enthusiastically early in the season in future.
1. What is going on in the hive?
The colony will be building up strongly now with the warm weather we have had in May (until last week). Now is the time to plan removal of any spring honey that you have – the best in my view. Of course if you have oil seed rape near your hives you must take it off really quickly or it will set hard and you will be unable to get it out.
Depressingly, we are approaching the longest day on 21st June. Whilst we feel that summer has only just begun, as the nights start drawing in again the bees will be thinking about winding down for the winter, so bear this in mind with your manipulations. For example it is quite difficult getting the bees to draw out comb after June.
2. Check your hives
You should be into regular inspections, once a week to look out for signs of swarming, which can stretch into June and has been known in July. Take the time to observe the entrance in between inspections too – are they regularly coming and going, bringing in pollen? I love sitting nearby with a cup of tea just watching what they are up to.
In your regular inspections:
- Do you see the queen or evidence of the queen (eggs, larvae brood in all stages)?
- What does the brood pattern look like? If it is patchy it could indicate that the queen is failing, or a brood disease.
- Look out for evidence of disease.
- What is the temperament like?
- Do you see drones?
- Do you see queen cells? Have your swarm prevention plan to hand. Just destroying any queen cells normally just delays the problem, so be ready to manage this situation.
- Are there sufficient stores – nectar and pollen?
- Is there enough room? If in doubt, add another super!
Don’t forget to keep records updated!
3. Check the Larder
I am wondering if reports of a June gap are exaggerated. Historically there has been a dearth of forage in June as the spring flowers fade, and the summer flowers have not yet started blooming. However on looking round my own garden this week, I see plenty of forage for the bees, and they are filling up supers well. Just make sure that your colonies are finding the same, and feed them a light syrup if necessary, hungry or in danger of starving – remember the colonies are increasing to their biggest size and there are many mouths to feed. Also make sure that there is a water source topped up – they will need it during hot weather).
Here is a selection of flowers in my garden this week. Enjoy your bees!