|Written 2nd April. The active season is almost upon us. There have not been many days recently that were warm enough to look into hives but the forecast is promising, especially for Sunday and a good part of next week. My first priority is to find, mark and clip my queens. Managing colonies is so much easier with marked queens when it comes to swarming time. It does take a while to learn to find queens easily but this is the best time of year to do it. This Sunday, If possible, look into the hive around midday. Many bees will be out foraging therefore making it easier to spot the queen as there will be fewer bees on the frames. Try not to look at individual bees but scan around the edge of the frame first and then work inwards, keeping a picture of a queen in your mind’s eye. After finding queens a few times the confidence builds making it easier for the next time.
Colonies with a brood box full of bees should have a super placed below the crown board. If the brood box is not yet full of bees place a super over the crown board so it easier for the bees to keep warm overnight. The super gives bees space during warm days to spread out though we may have frosts for a few more weeks yet. Strong colonies will build up quickly in the coming weeks so will need more space when the current super starts filling with bees. If colonies become overcrowded it can cause bees to start swarm preparation much earlier than they would otherwise do so.
On the topic of swarming, this year I intend to carry out pre-emptive artificial swarm control. This I know may seem unconventional to some but there is a good reason. Last year I had an accident which means I have less function in my right hand. Taking supers off and returning them each inspection every 7 to 10 days is rather awkward. So when I consider bees are nearing queen cell making time I shall artificially swarm the stronger colonies. More on this subject next time as I hope bees will be patient and wait until May. Always the optimist!
To those who are fairly new to the craft the season is about to start – it is almost as if someone turns on the switch. Suddenly so many jobs need doing so be ready and prepared. Have clean kit ready to hand, supers available with requisite frames and brood frames ready with foundation. Try to be ahead of the curve and anticipate what you will need in the coming weeks. And do try and make some nucs during the season – they are great insurance should there be heavy winter losses in 2021. If they become surplus there are always other beekeepers who will be looking out for bees.
Enjoy your beekeeping during these difficult times.