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John the BeeMan's Blog - April 2015 - April planning


The March weather has been much colder than usual and there have been no opportunities to open up the colonies for even a brief inspection.   This, combined with my recovery from a knee replacement, has curtailed my activities.   I am now mobile again ready for the season to get underway.

Apiary Up-Date

An old beekeeping friend can to stay and between us we visited the Cemetery apiary and took the supers out from under the brood boxes and repositioned them over a queen excluder.   It was interesting to see that some of the supers still had stores in them.   Out of the 6 hives all have bees, although 1 was a little weak and I will swap it with a stronger one when the weather warms up.

The Murphy bees are still a worry and may be too weak to pull through.   I still have my spare nuc hive that has wintered well and can take over if necessary.   That’s the advantage of keeping a nuc going through the winter, feeding it with the ‘Ambrosia’ syrup which does not go off nor ferment.   Also the bees can use it without having to process it too much.

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April Planning - It all starts here – swarming and varroa control

Plan weekly inspections whenever it’s warm enough and check out the following:

  • If the colony is strong enough (covering at least 5 frames) consider changing the brood frames using the “Shook Swarm” method towards the end of April.   You will find full instructions to do this on our website under ‘knowledge’ (see Knowledge - How to ..).   There are also many items about it if you ‘google’ shook swarms.   The ‘youtube’ item is not worth looking at.   This technique is a full-on replacement of all the brood frames and should be considered every other year.   It is really surprising how well the colony will recover from it.   Follow the instructions, including the extra part about varroa control.   The most important point when doing this is to first find and cage the queen, putting her aside until you have shaken all the bees into their new box, then let her out into the top bars and let her walk in.
  • If you feel that this is too severe, replace any old blackened brood frames with new ones with foundation, try to replace at least 4 frames each year and position them at one end of the brood box.   If this is done every year you will maintain a good healthy environment for the brood.
  • On one nice warm day, thoroughly check through the brood to satisfy yourself that it is really healthy.   The Association is holding a workshop on the apiary on Saturday 16th May when you can learn what looks healthy and what doesn't!   I am also holding an evening session on 5th May to show how microscopes can be used to check for acarine and nosema.   You will be encouraged to bring samples for analysis.
  • Keep your eyes open for queen cells and be ready to take action if swarming appears to be the colony’s intention.   Have you got spare equipment to do an “artificial Swarm” and the knowledge as to what action to take??
  • Swarm action takes experience, so make sure you read about it and have a beekeeping friend to call when you need help.

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Forage for April

This is the month when colonies get under way with loads of foraging possibilities, building up to an abundance as the month progresses

  • Sycamore
  • Hawthorn
  • Many garden plants and shrubs
  • Horse chestnut
  • Many bulbs, daffodils, tulips etc
  • And lots more

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