Beekeeping is often more art than science. It is important with beekeeping not to do things by rote, but to pay attention to the weather, the forage available, and the condition of your bees.
So, although according to old beekeeper lore, you can do your first inspection when the flowering currant is out, unless temperatures are also above 15degrees C, don’t disturb them. If you do, the bees metabolic rate increases and they will consume more of what may still be scarce resources in the hive. Remember, many of the bees in the colony are the old winter bees who have less strength and energy so although the Blackthorn and other early plum and cherry blossom is out, if these bees have to fly any distance in cool temperatures they will not be able to take full advantage of this forage and may die in the attempt.
April is a good time to be thinking about disease, and of course the dreaded Asian Hornet. The Asian Hornet queens are emerging and establishing their initial colonies and it is now that if they can be detected, we can try to keep this destructive pest out of Britain. Please keep alert and communicate with non-beekeepers the importance of identifying and reporting this hornet.
The Zoom talk in March by Kirsty Stanton brought to our attention again the importance of monitoring our bees for disease. Checking for varroa in the Spring is an important part of this monitoring, so remember to put your inserts (smeared with vaseline to create a sticky film) under the hive and then use the calculation found on BeeBase to determine the level of varroa in your hive to guide you in what action to take to reduce the varroa load on your bees.
There is a lot of interest in scientific and beekeeping circles about how best to promote our bees natural defence against varroa. Leading lights like Tom Seeley and his ‘Darwinian Beekeeping’ blog and Professor Steve Martin’s work on Natural Varroa-Resistant Honey bees. give ideas on this If you are interested in this approach, do obtain a copy of Steven Martin’s booklet from BBKA which is being sold at a knockdown price of £4.00.
It makes for interesting reading and gives some ideas about how you can determine whether your bees are beginning to develop these characteristics.
Kirsty talked about the various viral infections bees are affected by, but particularly Chronic Bee Paralysis (CBPV) which is on the increase in the UK. As we are all very aware now from our exposure to Covid, this virus increases in crowded conditions - when the bees build up in the hive and when we have a large number of hives in an Apiary. For many of us it is not practical to spread our hives out, but Tom Seeley is convinced because bees in the wild spread themselves out by at least 30metres and often much more, that our practice of keeping bees in close proximity has a negative effect on their health.
Perhaps this is something we need to think about, but also as we have had impressed on us because of our experience with Covid, we need to be particularly aware of good hygiene in the Apiary and now is a good time to get your hives onto clean flamed floors and to think about replacing frames to give the bees as healthy an environment as we can.
Do consider joining us for our next Zoom meeting where we will find out something about how bees and bee products can keep us all healthy!
Regards, and stay safe and well,