March is traditionally the start of the active beekeeper season, The early blossom is out. The roads are lined with Blackthorn in full bloom and other members of the Prunus family are decorating gardens and streets with their delicate blossom.
But....it has been cold and very windy. Not good news for our bees (and I don't like it much either!).
Honeybees don't like to fly in windy conditions, You may see bumblebees out and about on a windy day, but our bees wait for calmer conditions. Also, below 8 degrees C, honeybees become immobilised if they are exposed to this temperature for any length of time. They can raise their body temperature in the hive to 25+ degrees C by consuming stores, and then venture out short distances, until their body temperatures drop to this dangerous level and if they are then not back in the hive, death is inevitable.
Because they are consuming stores in order to survive the outside trip to forage for fresh nectar, there needs to be a positive energy balance from this endeavour to make it worthwhile. As February has been one of the wettest, windiest and coldest on record, our bees have suffered. I am sure most of you who have put fondant on your hives have seen that it is being consumed, but they also need fresh pollen to raise brood and because of the weather it has been difficult for them to gather pollen from the early spring flowers.
Hopefully we will see warmer, drier, calmer weather soon. Amazingly, despite the awful February weather, some Spring flowers, like daffodils, are early and I notice the flowering currant, which is supposed to alert beekeepers to prepare to do the first inspection of the year, has already flowered. Don't be tempted to open your hives until the weather is much warmer, 15 degrees C at least. If your do, you will set the bees back and you will have gained little except maybe a sting or two.
You will notice that the Chair of Rugby Beekeeping Association is vacant, having served an extra year over and above the stipulated two year requirement, I stepped down at the last AGM in February but no one else has come forward to take on the role. I would appeal to anyone who feels able to give a commitment to this for two years to come forward as it may mean the dissolution of the Branch Association if it cannot be filled. There is a good committee in place who do most of the work, so essentially the post holder is required to chair 4 committee meetings a year, excluding the AGM, and provide a general steer for the Association. Introducing and thanking speakers is another small task.
In February, fortunately on a reasonable dry day, Kim Spencer, Martin Wibberly, Mark Henderson, Tony Shaw and myself did a little reorganisation and clean up in the Branch Apiary for the new season and the new beekeepers. Their help was much appreciated.
We have had a full complement of 21 attendees at the beginners course, and we anticipate some new members this year who will hopefully come to sessions at the apiary to get them started in their beekeeping career.