As I look out across the garden, 4 goldfinches are sitting happily on the feeder and a blue tit is inspecting our bird box, reminding me that nature runs on a different clock to our own. Things may have slowed down or stopped for us at the moment, but nature moves on relentlessly with one eye on the weather.
You only have to read some of the old beekeeping books and you will find references to doing tasks ‘when the currant is in flower’ or ‘when the red clover is out’ rather than on a particular date. It’s a good reminder that it’s better to do jobs ‘in time’ rather than ’on time.’
With this in mind, now is a good time to make a plan for this years beekeeping if you have not done so already. Certain events will happen. The bees will expand, the supers will go on and the bee may swarm.
Being ahead of the game in beekeeping is a pleasure: playing catch-up is a task. The bees are expanding now, and soon the Queen will be up to full laying rate. So check you equipment, make sure it is clean ready to use. (Suppliers are still fulfilling orders for home delivery and seem to have plenty of stock.) There is nothing worse than going to get a stored super out and finding it full of wax moth… believe me, I know!
When you purchased your hive it probably came with 2 supers, and in your first year, 2 supers may be enough. But in a good year with good stock you will need more. In the time it takes to remove, extract and return a super, the hive may become congested. The more space you can give your bees in late spring/early summer, the better. More space as the bees expand and undrawn foundation gives the nurse bees something to work on, and can help to delay the swarming tendency. So if you have the equipment, get it made up and ready to use. Some beekeepers like to put the foundation into the frames just before putting onto the hive so that the wax is fresh, but if you have a lot of frames to make up this become impossible. If they have been made up and waiting around for a while, the surface of the wax tends to dry out: running a hairdryer quickly over the surface will bring the oils back to the surface, making it more attractive to the bees. Remember it’s the nurse bees that draw most of the wax, and they need a good supply of feed and warmth. Bees will not draw out foundation if there is not a need for it.
So with your equipment clean, frames made up ready to go have you made a plan?
- What will you do if or when the bees swarm?
- Have you got the necessary gear to catch them with?
- Do you know how to catch them?
- Have you got spare equipment to keep them in?
- Are you going to keep them?
A few minutes of forward planning now may save a great deal of effort (and panic!) later.