by Tamsin Harris
Vital livestock management has to go ahead early in the Spring, and this year is no exception.
Down here in Cornwall the NE, then SE winds have been keen these last few days, but the splendid sunshine has meant that I’ve been able to get to work in a few of my more sheltered apiaries.
Today, 23 March, has been my first opportunity to look under the crown boards of those colonies that I know have done well over the mild, but wet winter.
My purpose for opening up has been to get clean queen excluders, clean crown boards and the first supers on. The bees are working hard and bringing in plenty of nectar and pollen, a sure sign that extra space is needed. Dandelions are very evident on verges and in gardens, (although with so many people self isolating at home now, I suspect many lawns will be mown and pollinators will have to search elsewhere) as well as celandines and early blackthorn.
I didn’t feel it necessary to remove any frames, as I could see that the colonies looked big and healthy, there will be time to do that in the next week or so when I remove the old frames at the outer edges of the brood box and replace them with fresh foundation. These old frames will have empty comb that is no doubt mouldy and brittle and of absolutely no use to the bees.
From the looks of a lot of my colonies, I was getting these supers on just in time. They need room to spread out the nectar as the foragers pass it to the house bees for processing, although most of it will be consumed, rather than stored at this time of year. The queen will be increasing her rate of lay and vital room is needed for her to produce more brood.
All my supers were chalked with the name of the apiary they were removed from at the end of the season, and they are returned to the same apiary in the Spring. This ensures that I keep any possible spread of disease to a minimum, good hygiene practices in the apiary are something that we should all be stringent about, as well as in our personal lives.
I shall take the rest of the supers for each apiary out with me when I next inspect. I stack these above the crown board so that they are ready for when they are needed. Getting a job like that done before the season really takes off is such a time saver.
The last job of the day has been to clean all the dirty kit I have brought back to my bee shed. My favourite tool of the moment is my framed wire queen excluder scraper, it has a sharp edge on one side for the initial removal of burr comb, and then the grooves on the opposite edge make light work of removing wax from between the wires – just a brilliant bit of kit. I now have a pot of old wax that will be rendered down and cleaned, the first of many such containers during the active season. Finally, as the day started to cool off, I’ve been using my blow torch to scorch all my scraped kit – if the residue wax bubbles, then you know it's been scorched hot enough.
Fingers crossed that the weather holds for long enough for me to get round all my colonies this week.