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March Bee Notes

‘I know that there will be clover when the weather improves’, said the ass, ‘but I want it now. Everyone gets hay. How to solve the problem? I don’t know. I’m too busy thinking about the clover.’ 

The heather is still flowering in the Monastery Cloister Garden and the bees are enjoying it! The heathers we planted are as follows:

‘Kramer’s Red’ – dark foliage and dark red/purple flowers

‘Ghost Hills’ – pale green foliage with pink flowers

‘Perfect White’ – pale green foliage with white flowers

All varieties flower from winter through to late spring.

We are moving into the ‘busy- bee’ season. I am putting together nice new frames and will be adding foundation soon so I am ready for the new season. I am expecting to peek into the hives around Saint Patrick’s Day and will make an assessment of how they are progressing.I just need a nice warm, sunny day!

I met a beekeeper up North last week who had already had a quick look inside his colonies. We discussed what tactic we might adopt this year to manage our colonies – would we clip and mark the queens or would we go for minimal intervention and see how it goes? Like good politicians, we didn’t reach any conclusion. I am away for much of July so I may be forced into the minimal intervention solution. My main reason to look into the colonies early is to ensure the queen has enough room to lay and that there is a queen laying. Many of the brood frames could still be full of ivy honey from the autumn. I will also check that they have enough stores.

While it is still cold and the propolis is hard, it is a good time to clean spare hive parts and recycle your frames for the coming season. Put all floors, brood boxes, supers, crown boards, queen excluders and roofs in a to-do pile. I use a scraper hive tool and a blowtorch. You can clean and scrape all the bits into an upturned roof. First scrape the inside surfaces, clean off brace comb and the propolis. Once you have removed most of the debris, flame the inside surfaces and stop when the timber changes colour. The finished item will be clean and hopefully sterile (free of disease).If you have plastic runners this will be a problem. Using metal runners gets over this problem.

I read an interesting piece on foundation. Thorne, the bee equipment suppliers, are now offering 4.9mm foundation for sale. I didn’t know there was such a thing as 4.9mm foundation. This is as a result of a project carried out at Reading University. They are studying varroa to see whether the use of smaller cell foundation (4.9mm) makes a difference. The investigation is being carried out with beekeepers in the local area as well as in the apiary at the university. The study will evaluate the use of small cell foundation alongside regular sized (5.4mm) foundation and compare the varroa loads during next spring and summer. Apparently beekeepers in other parts of the world have had success using this small cell foundation but many others have not. Some previous studies found that varroa counts increased in the short term when small cell foundation was first used. The new study will evaluate what happens once the bees have fully adjusted to small cell foundation and if there is a significant impact on varroa loads. I will wait and see the results before changing my order of foundation.

BroodMinder – a new piece of kit which uses the latest technology and integrated circuit temperature and humidity chips to monitor your hive. It is not too expensive and seems easy to fit. It generates data every hour on what is going on in the brood chamber. The idea is to reduce the need to open the hive. The data is sent to your smartphone or tablet. Worth a look at broodminder.com

 

Happy Beekeeping!