Friday 9 April 2021

The BBKA is issuing a warning to beekeepers to check their bees for starvation and European Foulbrood during this cold snap. 

Emergency feeding may be needed. It would be advisable to check the food levels by opening the hive and making a very quick observation of their store levels.

It is also important to check that hives have small entrances as Foulbrood is about in some areas and small colonies or those suffering disease may not be able to defend themselves from infected intruders if they have a large opening to defend. 

Strong colonies may try to rob weaker ones and thus contract the infections. It is probably not possible to inspect the colonies as it is still too cold, but the best defence is to ensure they all have food. You can make a careful inspection of their brood to check for infections when it is warm enough. 

Key points to remember are:

• The colony may still have stores available which are at the other end of the brood chamber
to the cluster of bees. If there are ‘empty’ frames between the two then the bees could still
starve, despite food being in the chamber. Move the frames of food directly next to the outer
frame where the cluster resides, ensuring that you score each frame of food (not excessively,
but enough to stimulate feeding). Be sure not to knock or roll the bees when doing this and to
be as quick as possible.

• If the colony has little or no frames of food then give them a block of candy or fondant. You
want to aim for about 2.5 kg per hive and although this may seem to be a great expense, it is
far less than the money you will have wasted should the bees die.

• At this time of the year we would usually start feeding sugar syrup but with these
temperatures it is still too cold. Place the fondant directly above the bees, turning the
crownboard if necessary so that one of the porter bee escape holes is above the cluster.
Please be aware that this should be done as quickly and carefully as possible and although it
may seem too cold to open the hive now, it is far better to do so knowing the bees are ok than
not to and find later that they have died.

Beebase have a series of Best Practice Guidelines you should check including: 

Best Practice Guideline No. 6 - Spring Checks  (updated June 2018)

Best Practice Guidelines No. 7 a) - Feeding Bees - sugar