Ian Campbell, Newcastle & District BKA and BBKA Social Media Manager

Losses can be high this month. Stores can become depleted if left unchecked, especially with early spring issues of an expanding colony and limited forage. Winter bees are increasingly dying off now and are, hopefully, being replaced. However, a failing queen may mean the hoped-for build-up never happens.

Avoid doing too much too soon

You can remove mouseguards when frosts have passed; some feel they increase the risk of pollen being knocked off returning foragers and they make it harder for dead bees to be removed. Depending on location, leave inspections until April unless you have an urgent reason or the weather is warmer than average – and then keep it brief!

Decide when to move nadired supers

If you put a super under the brood box for the winter (nadiring) and you don’t want the queen laying in it, start to think about the best time to move it.

Is pollen going in?

On a warm day observe the entrance for activity and pollen going in; this can be an indicator of the presence of brood and therefore of a laying queen.

Put out Asian hornet monitoring traps

With growing risks from Asian hornets, putting out selective monitoring traps,
especially in areas near last year’s nests, can help catch foundress queens.

Check Varroa levels

An early check of Varroa levels is a good idea. Monitoring boards give an approximate guide to the average daily mite drop.

The NBU’s Managing Varroa booklet is an excellent resource: https://tinyurl.com/2p84ca6s

Assess stores and feed as needed

Check for stores running out as the colony increases. The weather can be unpredictable – it is better to be safe than sorry. Some may decide to give stimulatory feed to build a colony up before taking it to early forage such as oilseed rape and this may include pollen substitutes or supplements.

If feeding is required, thin syrup is normally recommended. In metric units this is 1kg of granulated white sugar to 1.25 litres of water – 1lb to 1 pint in imperial units.

When adequate forage is available, take off fondant. This is a tricky moment to judge but feeling the approximate weight of the colony is a guide.

Contact feeders are often suggested for spring feeding.

Have you got enough kit?

Having double the amount of kit for your current number of occupied hives is an easy way to avoid stress later in the year. Every year many can be caught with insufficient kit to house swarms and perform artificial swarms (splits).

Find your queen excluders

The busy season is coming! Find your queen excluders and have other kit ready to go.

Handy nucs

Some nuc boxes can come in very handy for a range of uses.

Causes of dead colonies

If you find that a colony has died close the entrance until you are ready to deal with it. Try to understand why a colony may have failed; looks for signs.

Common causes can include:
Poor/failed queens
Varroa-related issues
Small/weak colonies

Dead bees – a nasty surprise.

A sign of starvation – heads in cells.

Photos:  Ian Campbell