Members advice on what you may consider doing monthly in the apiary 

( Notice Guidance is provided specifically for Polkemmet Association Apiaries )

 

March

When the sun shines some of the bees are out and flying, however weather conditions are still very variable, so ensure adequate stores are available in your hives and NUC's to cover any sustained periods of inclement weather. Some flowers are starting to appear (mainly snowdrops and some gorse). It is suggested that, if you want an early start to colony build up, pollen substitute may also be added as a further feeding supplement.

April

With increasing better weather, this month is typically the month when first full hive inspections can be done. These should be done on a warm sunny day (temperature at least 10degC) with little wind, so the bees are more content when disturbed. Look for

  • Queen/eggs,

  • Open & Sealed brood, and any possible disease, significantly EFB in open brood and AFB in sealed brood, both of which are notifiable. Chalkbrood is particularly prevalent at around this time but unless severe usually resolves itself with time. Varroa  may still be a problem so assess whether a further Spring treatment will be needed.

  • Stores available and supplement if needed.  With increased temperature, switch from using fondant to 1:1 (1Litre water to 1 kg sugar syrup ) using a rapid feeder. You may also choose use a Hive Alive Supplement in the syrup for extra boost. If you find that there is too much honey in the brood chamber then it is advisable to scratch the brood honey surface to encourage the bees to consume or move the stores, and put a super on. This will give the Queen more room to lay and act as a swarm prevention measure.

It is also advisable to do a spring clean of the hive, the minimum being cleaning the debris accumulated over the winter period on the hive floor. Marking Queens is also useful at this time of year, when there are fewer bees and the Queen can be more easily found.

You should consider moving over-wintered NUCs into full hives if they have built up sufficiently. Consider what equipment you may need in the coming season and order as required, especially with regard to the future swarm prevention/control methods you plan to use. Likewise consider the extra frames and foundation needed for the coming season both for brood and supers.

May

Hurrah we are now well into the Northern Hemisphere's Bee year and World Bee Day is on 20th May!!

Colonies should be well into their increase now with 6 to 8 frames of bees on frames in the brood box. Unfortunately some colonies having survived the winter haven't prospered and for example due to a late mated queen last year, may actually be on decline rather than increase. In this case the queen hasn't enough sperm from her mating flights to sustain worker laying and will start producing drone brood instead. This drone laying queen can be identified, from having an irregular drone laying pattern, little brood, and single eggs at the bottom of cells. Whereas a drone laying worker  tends to lay multiple eggs per cell and these can be on the cell walls rather than at the bottom.

 

As the queen is still present, the hive is still queen-right and appears content, however without intervention the colony will eventually collapse. With drone brood being laid, there is no chance of raising a new queen without adding frame of worker eggs from another hive or NUC. These must be disease free, and it is also advisable to shake in more nurse bees, and possibly add a frame of sealed brood to reinforce this weakened colony. This ensures enough bees are available to raise the brood. All being well, with good weather the colony should recover and sort themselves out. For example see : "Fixing a drone laying queen", Gwenyn Grufydd

A laying worker is a more serious problem and usually the only solution is to do a shook swarm, in the hope that the laying worker doesn't return to the hive. However you may try this fix, again in the hope of success. In the worst case you may end up sacrificing the brood/hive and just let the forage bees distribute themselves among other queen-right hives.  

Finally May is the month that swarming may start to occur, so supers need to be added to those colonies which need the space i.e. those with 6-8 frames of bees in the brood box or in the current top super. This should suppress the  urge for the colony to swarm, and is part of general swarm prevention. If queen cells are found during inspections then you are into swarm control mode, and some of the swarm control techniques mentioned in "Resources" need to be implemented.

June

Following on from last  month's Association day, this month's is on Sunday 12th June from 10:30am to 12:30am. As before tea/coffee will be provided and family/friends are all welcome. This gives of the opportunity to connect and share our experiences. Frame building and hive inspections will also take place.

There have been a number of reports to the association of swarms - most of these have simply been bumble-bee nests, which can safely be left to their own devices. A few actual swarms have already been collected and it's worth reading up on how to go about this and have the necessary equipment to hand if needed. Although collecting swarms is not recommended for inexperienced beekeepers. Likewise you may consider setting up some bait hives in positions where you think bees may be likely to swarm.  "How to use a bait hive" provides some useful information on using and positioning bait hives.

In beekeeping the month of June is synonymous with the "June Drop" which is the period  at the end of the Spring flowering season and the beginning of the summer season. During this period the lack of forage results in low availability of nectar and it is important to assess the amount of nectar stores in your hives to ensure that the bees have sufficient to cover them over this "drop". If not you may need to feed sugar syrup to supplement. Colonies may even have a brood-break or certainly experience a reduction in egg-laying over this period, depending on the forage available in the area.

As always, hive inspections should continue - weekly if possible, to look for

  • disease, (particularly foul brood, and varroa),

  • size and space available in the colony, taking swarm prevention measures if needed i.e.

    • colony splits​

    • extra supers

  • amount of colony stores

  • presence of the queen and/or eggs

  • Play cups/Queen Cells

 

You should also start seeing both drone cells and drones in your colonies.​

July

 

This is the main honey flow month so provided that the weather is fine, ensure that all hives have enough supers to accommodate the increased nectar brought in by the bees. Swarming is still possible, so beware if you start to see a diminishing of stores in the hive, as bees may gorge themselves a few weeks prior to actual swarming.

There should be plenty of forage available this month, blackberry, willow-herb etc. so with decent weather a good honey harvest should be forth-coming. Keep an eye on varroa levels, and if needed sacrifice drone brood as a means of reducing infestation. Thymol varroa treatments should not be used as they can contaminate the honey making it taste unpleasant to both bees & humans.

As standard, hive inspections should continue as normal and hive records updated appropriately.