April in the Apiary 2016

We have made it through the winter and the Spring is HERE!  The bees are exploding out of their hives on the warmer days, and have fresh pollen now available to feed their young, of whom they have been tending since about February.  This is your time to finally be able to get in and access your hives overall condition coming out of the winter.  60° days and above will allow you to actually get into the hive a bit deeper without chilling the brood.  Spring is the toughest management season, since TIMING is EVERYTHING with colony life.  What are we looking for and doing as we go inspect our hive? Here are some biggies:

 If you haven’t already, consider if you should reverse the hive bodies.  This puts the brood chamber that has moved up, as honey in the top was consumed.  We want the laying queen to feel there is space to grow above.  This helps avert swarming.  Bees can move the nest downward, but often just feel cramped, and tend to swarm.  For large and booming colonies already going strong, you may consider breaking up the brood nest a little (checker boarding with drawn comb).  This also assists to avert swarming if the nest is compact with a high colony population.  We want them to feel there is space to grow.  Most colonies won’t be that populous for another month or so, though.

 Adjust your restriction (i.e. entrance reducer) to let more air and bee traffic in and out (though not fully opened until we have warmer temps).  Colonies should receive maximum sunlight early in the season.  You can adjust location if you move your hive no more than a few feet a day if needed.

 Queenright- check that the bees are expanding and that there is healthy brood.  We want to make sure there are at least a few honey frames near the brood area.  The more brood, the more honey is used.  Fresh pollen should be coming in (a good sign there is brood to feed).  The key to inspection is have fun doing the work and learn something about the bees that will help make the next management decision easier.

 Now is a good time to remove old, black or defective comb before the comb is filled again.  Comb that is all drone comb (often bees make a second layer of comb for drone rearing on the sneak) can be removed.  Replace with drawn comb if you have it.  When the nectar flow starts, you can add frames of foundation to fill the spots.

 Clean the bottom board if needed.  Remove old mushy or molded pollen patties from winter.

Feeding: feeding 1:1 sugar water stimulates the queen to lay, and wax to be produced.  This results in more foragers gathering pollen.  Once the nectar flow is on (flowers are in bloom), feeding can stop as natural nectar will now be available.  If you have a weak hive, you may decide to continue feeding.

 Drones are already out.  This means that swarming season is coming up.  Read up on swarm cells and swarm prevention so you are not chasing your bees through the neighborhood flailing your arms calling, ‘Come back! Come back!’ (You may STILL end up doing this).

 Full supers of pulled frames should not be added until the honey flow has begun.  Hives should not contain large amounts of stored honey or pollen after late March.  So, this may be your time to take a frame or two of the extra overwintered honey for yourself if you choose. 

Mite treatment: Spring and Fall are the two general times best suited for mite treatment.  Hopguard2, Oxalic Vapor and Apivar are all good spring treatments.  As the daytime temperatures stabilize consistently above 60°, other mite treatments may be used.

 Have a BLAST, enjoy every minute and love your ‘girls’!  They deserve it!

(source material: Honeybee Biology and Beekeeping, Dewey M. Caron)

Thanks to Kim Rivera for these notes!!

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