May News from the Abbey Beekeper

Isn’t it wonderful that each year is so different?  I was in a petrol station recently and it had a sign up warning us “to get your water tanks insulated this year and don’t be without water”!  As you know there was no need for such insulation as we had a very mild Winter.

I also find it wonderful that the timing of Easter is still determined by the cycle of the moon!

The beekeeping world is also unpredictable and dependent on the weather.  You can make the best plans for this year’s beekeeping based on the experience of last year and in a few days they come to nothing.

The fine, warm weather early this year has nectar flowing at a time when last year we were feeding our colonies!  It has also meant that the winter bees have had to work harder than other years.

Be watchful for food supplies – a bad spell of weather during spring can result in starvation, as the developing brood use up dwindling stores. It should be noted that more colonies are lost through starvation in early spring than through disease.

My colonies are building up steadily although I presume this cold weather has slowed their progress. So far as I can tell, the mesh floor seems to have worked well.

I know some colonies have built up very rapidly and I heard talk of a swarm in March!  A local friend of mine had a colony building queen cups in the middle of March – they were an exceptionally advanced colony. I have worked with him on running an Apidea or queen rearing box. It is a useful addition as we now have a spare queen ready for use if any colony becomes queenless. We also plan to replace some of our queens with queen cells from his exceptional colony should they make plans to swarm and produce queen cells.

I would normally get a supply of honey at this time of the year from sycamore and chestnut and other fruit blossoms. However, it may be a bit cold for a good flow this year!

It is important to think through your proposed procedures for swarm control. It is important to know what to do if and when you find queen cells! What will you do? There are several possible courses of action.

Provision of water supply – often in March/April long before the supplies of watery nectar come in, honey from stores has to be diluted with water. If there is no convenient source of clean water it is good to provide one. A large shallow bowl or bath with clean sacking draped around the inside and over the edges and kept supplied with water can be used. I use a half tyre!

See that it is not in the flight path in front of the hives or flying bees could foul the water. The wet sacking and/or pieces of thin wood floating on the surface of the water provide landing places for the bees and prevent losses from drowning!

Making Hair Conditioner using honey!

2 tablespoons honey

1 tablespoon olive oil

Combine in a bowl. Apply to hair and scalp and massage for at least three minutes. Warm the hair with a hair dryer set on low (or sit out in the sun!) to help the lotion penetrate. Allow the mixture to remain on the hair for 20-30 minutes. After wash with a good shampoo!