Well spring has so far been wet, cold and changeable and I don’t know about you, but I have been limiting my beekeeping to observing from the outside of the hive and popping a super on just in case! Only today (1st May) have I felt that it has been warm enough to do a full inspection. Meteorologists have said that this is the coldest spring for 6 years, and parts of the South have had twice the normal amount of rainfall.
Happily it looks like the local forecast is above 15 °C for at least the next couple of weeks, so regular inspections can commence, albeit they will have to be done whilst dodging showers if the forecast is correct.
I am pleased to report that my inspections today revealed queens laying, stores coming in, no signs of disease or queen cells, and a lovely temperament. That may change as we approach warmer weather of course…….
I am always a bit nervous going in for the first time in the year, but these first inspections today reminded me why I love my bees!
1. What is going on in the hive?
The queen is busily laying well now, and the size of the colony will be growing rapidly. Your workers should be busy bringing in nectar and pollen. The worker bees are likely to be new bees this year with the overwintered bees having died off by now.
2. Check your hives
One of the most important things to do is to make sure your bees have plenty of room – so prepare spare supers so that you can pop one on before they need it. Running out of space is one of the reasons why a colony will swarm, so avoid space being a problem and add a super if in doubt!
You should be into regular inspections now, once a week is ideal because you want to find any queen cells before they are capped (after 8 days), which is when a colony will swarm.
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
Well the bees are spoilt for choice at the moment in my garden. Bluebells, forget me knots, laurel and tulips are all in bloom, and I have seen many wild flowers out during my dog walks. My apple and pear trees are also just coming into flower. It has been a particularly good year for dandelions I think maybe it is all that rain!
Enjoy your bees!