Jobs in the Apiary for April

//Jobs in the Apiary for April

Jobs in the Apiary for April

There seems to be a lot more variation
in the weather these days. The old beekeepers of yesteryear never had to
feed their bees in the winter because they didn’t have any. All they
had to do was wait for the Sprng to arrive, catch a few  warms – they
were plentiful – and fill up the hives again. The swarms would eminate
from the thousands of trees around, now decimated in the interests of
‘progress’ and to accommodate the proliferation of motorways. The
weather 50 years ago and before seemed to be so much more reliable than
it is now and, in no time at all, the old beekeeper would have a bumper
crop of honey. Not now. We seem to spend more and more of our time
endeavouring to get our bees through the inter with minimum losses and
the questions we need to ask are “Do we keep stocks which are too weak,
small and useless and which we could probably do without? And “Do we
apply too much effort trying to save unhealthy colonies ?”

April ignals the start of the rape seed
oil crop – the first major crop of the year. For many beekeepers this is
the main source for their honey crop so we should be ready. It is
essential to have enough frames ready and with fresh foundation  o that
as frames of honey are removed they can quickly be replaced. It is
important also that new supers are added to the hive as soon as you
observe that the super(s) are full of bees – try not to wait until they
are full of honey as he bees need available room beyond what they are
using at the moment so that they can store the nectar which can be
processed later. Rape gets a lot of bad press because it is felt that it
is the cause of hay-fever attacks at this time of ear but it does
flower at the same time as trees such as plum, cherry, blackthorn and
hawthorn which can also cause similar symptoms. It is also unfortunate
that the proportions of honey sugars, sucrose and fructose in rape means
that the honey granulates very rapidly – warm days in the spring
together with a high nectarflow encourages the bees to move up in to the
supers but cold nights force them back in to the brood box. The nectar
stored can then cool before it is processed and can actually start to
granulate before it is ripe. Indeed, it can be quite difficult to decide
when rape honey is sufficiently ripe and therefore ready for extraction
– combs may be sealed but the honey still liquid whilst exposed honey
may even have started to granulate! As a rule of thumb if the honeycomb
frames are shaken and nectar/honey flows out do not extract, otherwise
it’s probably OK. It is certainly the case that as soon as the supers
are removed it should be extracted straight away. A further snippet of
information. We were chatting with one of our farming members the other
day and he was explaining about the slow growth of his over wintering
crops, all due to the cold wet winter and miserable spring. The land is
so wet that large areas are under water making it impossible to work the
land with machinery, so it is highly likely that the rape seed oil
crops will be later this year. A timely reminder erhaps (if you need
one) that it is essential you keep checking your bees to see if more
food is required even as we go in to April!

We suggested your first job of the
Spring should be to change/clean up the floors and if this hasn’t been
done yet because of the cold weather we have been experiencing
throughout March then that still should be the first priority in April.
The second inspection should be an opportunity to assess the state of
the colony – have you provided the colony with thin 1:1 sugar syrup to
help stimulate the queen to lay and is she performing well? Are the eggs
evenly distributed and are the grubs creamy white and not twisted or
deformed? It is a good idea to consider renewing old and badly
discoloured brood frames this month too – maybe 3 or 4 from the outer
edges could be replaced with fresh foundation. Remember also to make a
careful note of what you are seeing as it is much easier to assess the
progress, expansion or deterioration of the colony if you can refer to
your notes. Part of this routine should include a varroa check so that
you can decide on a treatment plan. Most of the statutory medicines need
a 3 – 4 week treatment schedule so this needs to be done before the
nectar flow starts as most treatments do contaminate the honey.

Now for the lighter side of our jobs at
the Whiley Hill Apiary around the ‘Riverbank’. One of our main concerns
is the ncreasingly difficult time our local wildlife is experiencing and
we like to do our bit to help where we can. Hedgehogs, for example, are
declining at an alarming rate and need our help. So, in a bid to assist
them as much as we can, we  ave built some winter homes for them and
placed them in quiet corners of the apiary. These little shelters will
also double up as homes for our mice population if not inhabited by the
hedgehogs. This will, in turn, give a helping had to  ur local owls
since they seemed to have developed the habit of using our hives as
feeding tables with mice as the prime meal on their menu!

We have also decided to put up some
nesting boxes for blue and great tits and also a Bumble bee nesting
house. The bumble bees which were seen in large numbers at this time
last year haven’t been seen anywhere in our area and it is a fair bet
they haven’t emerged anywhere yet because of the sluggish spring and
cold weather. We will be keeping an eye on all these initiatives and
provide updates in future editions – if anyone would like further
details about the nests and their construction please get in touch.

It won’t be long before the bees start
flying around in  eater numbers and, certainly once this present cold
spell is over, the spring tasks will start in ernest. Remember that the
bees will be coming home laden with pollen (see photograph) and it
essential all this precious bounty is taken safely in to the hive. In
order to ensure this happens don’t forget to remove the mouse guards as
thet do have the effect of scraping off the pollen on their legs as well
as creating bottlenecks at the entrance.

One final thought. We  gave a talk to
one of our local womens groups last month – the Wednesday afternoon
meeting, a breakaway branch of the WI we suspect – and it turned out to
be a really good afternoon out. The ladies were good fun and most of
them were completely spellbound with our tales – so much so that we
noticed, after 10 minutes or so, that two of them had dropped in to a
very deep sleep! We carried on regardless but eventually had to stop and
wake them up because their snoring was putting us out of our stride !!
The afternoon was completed with a piano recital, tea and cakes – I
don’t think we’ve ever eaten so many cakes of such varied type in our
lives – we must take care not to get overdosed and over-weight!!

Lets hope for a better summer when the only problem we have is what to do with all that honey!!

Roger & Len

By | 2017-01-21T15:06:27+00:00 December 15th, 2013|Uncategorized|0 Comments

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