This month is full of hope with spring flowers appearing and the odd spell of warm sunny weather! Sightings of bees flying and bringing in pollen is wonderful to see! I have been checking on stores and topping up with fondant if deemed necessary.
Sadly I found one hive had perished
and yesterday I went through the hive to do a post mortem. There is a handy article in the March 2023 Beecraft magazine on this very subject. When I last added fondant, there appeared to be plenty of bees in the hive, but they were very feisty. On examining the hive I found plenty of stores, so the cause was not starvation, no obvious sign of disease, plenty of dead bees but no evidence of new brood. My conclusion is that the loss was due to queen failure.
Happily my other 3 hives are in good spirits, with bees taking in pollen when the temperature allows them to forage, so plans are afoot to do a split in due course so that I can get back to 4 colonies later in the year.
1. What is going on in the hive?
Bees will be flying every day this month if the weather is suitable, for cleansing flights, orientation flights and foraging. Keep checking the outside of your hives – there should be a steady flow in and out, and ideally pollen going in. The queen will be laying now in preparation for the spring.
2. Check your hives
Do not be tempted to inspect your bees yet – the temperature is not high enough and you will put undue stress on your colonies, and chill the brood! The weather forecast for March is cold, below average, possibly with some snow on the way!
So content yourself with observing the hive entrance, and watching the bees come and go on a warm day.
3. Get ready for spring!
What you can usefully do now, is to do some planning – have a swarming plan ready to go, with a bullet point list of actions and the necessary equipment to hand! In my experience, signs of a colony thinking about swarming never happens at a convenient time, and having succinct notes and all the gear ready makes it much easier to handle. So think about what you want to achieve – do you want to increase your colonies, or keep to the number you have? I will be observing my hives to identify the colony from which I will take a split to repopulate my lost hive. I will also be cleaning up the hive whose colony died, ready to repopulate it.
4. Check the larder
Spring flowers are beginning to appear in my garden which are a joy to behold. A couple of weeks ago I watched a honeybee in a freshly opened crocus. The bee was buzzing with delight at the pollen and having a fine old time in the bright yellow flower. I have just been round the garden with my camera to identify gaps where more crocus could be planted for next year!