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This month in the apiary

APRIL 2023

Well we have had some very changeable weather, but the temperature is gradually rising I am hoping that I can soon do some regular inspections – can’t wait!  I have done quick checks of my hives of course to check on stores.  It is a joy to see the bees busy on a warm day, assiduously bringing in pollen!

The forecast doesn’t show a temperature above about 13°C for the next couple of weeks, so it is still too cold for a full inspection.  Firstly you don’t want chilled brood and secondly when you open your hive up you dislodge propolis that helps preserve the temperature in the colony.  There are still some chilly old nights coming ……

1. What is going on in the hive?

The queen will be laying well now, and your workers should be busy bringing in nectar and pollen.  New bees are replacing the old girls from last year, and the hive will be building up as the weather gets warmer. 

2. Check your hives

It is still important to keep checking stores – whilst there will be lovely fresh pollen and nectar coming into the hive, there will be an increasing number of mouths to feed.  If there is a cold or wet spell, the colony could still struggle to survive.  You can feed fondant, heavy syrup or a dampened bag of sugar, I err on the side of caution and if I think they need it, I give them something.

When it is warm enough to check your hives, have a good think beforehand and make a plan depending on what you see.   Make sure all of your equipment is ready to go – some new frames in case there is an opportunity to swap out some dirty old frames, queen excluders, spare supers in case they are needed.  Make sure you have plenty of time set aside to undertake your first check so that you can deal with whatever you are faced with.  

It is early for swarming as yet, but bees don’t read the books so think about what you will do if you do find queen cells, have a plan!  Just removing the queen cells is not a good idea and this month’s BBKA News sets out why!

I will be doing my pre-emptive Demaree procedure again, but I will probably wait until May to do so, as the conditions need to be right for the bees to draw out new comb.

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, maybe refresh your memory on what to look out for on the BBKA website
  • What is the temperament like – do you need to requeen that angry colony?
  • Do you see drones?
  • Is the queen marked – if not, now is a good time to mark her.  She will then be easier to find when the colony is larger.  If she is last year’s queen, she should be Yellow.
  • Are there sufficient stores – nectar and pollen
  • Is there enough room?  If not add another super!

Don’t forget to keep records updated!

3. Check the larder

Well spring is underway and I see so many new flowers appearing in my garden and elsewhere. I am growing seedlings of bee friendly flowers, ready to go out in May after the last frost.

Finally I am looking forward to going to the BBKA spring convention again, with my (beekeeping) sister who lives near Harper Adams University in Telford.  I am looking forward to learning new things, chatting to other beekeepers, and getting in the mood for the forthcoming bee season.  I will do a report of the convention for the May newsletter.

Enjoy your bees!