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John the BeeMan's Blog - mid April 2014 - Inspections, frames, repairs & swarm prevention

1st Opportunity for a Really Good Inspection: (1st April)

I returned from a few cold days in Dublin, to find a heat wave in London. I hot footed to the cemetery with the temperature nearly reaching 20 degrees C.   The bees were flying from each hive and I found that all had doubled their brood in the last 3 weeks, with some on 8 frames and 2 were actually storing honey in the super.   Too early to anticipate a big yield, but here’s hoping!   There was some drone brood and a few hatched drones parading on the comb.   No sign of queen cells, only play cups.

Out of the 5 colonies, I only spotted 1 queen in the last hive I opened, which I clipped, she was already marked.   I was beginning to wonder if my eyesight was failing!   I did a thorough check of all brood, scanning it to make sure it all looked good and healthy and didn’t find any dodgy looking cappings or larva.


Healthy brood
queen 'play' cups
Healthy brood
queen 'play' cups

Frames and repairs

One of the WBC brood boxes that I removed was full of propolis and the frame runners were plastic.   I cleaned off all the propolis and brace comb and refixing with screws, the top frame bars.   I blow-torched the whole inside of the chamber and fitted new steel runners.   The plastic runners that some suppliers use are useless as flaming will, of course, burn them!

I then put together 32 super frames to replace the rejected ones that were damaged or too old.

Flaming the brood box with its new steel runners
Putting together super frames in my workshop
Flaming the brood box with its new steel runners
Putting together super frames in my workshop

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Murphy Bees

I then checked these 2 colonies, and found that the strong one was now going great guns with the super half full and 8 frames of brood, in contrast to the other one which is still weak with only 2 frames of brood.   There was some minor soiling on a few of the top bars so they may be suffering from Nosema.   I may 'shook swarm' them next week.   I transferred the brood frames into cleaned brood boxes and swapped the hives over to allow the foragers from the strong colony to boost the weak one, hopefully this will level them off.   I also plan to leave a 'bait hive' close by, just in case either of them fancies swarming.


Swarming controls: (8th April)

A week later it was too cold for an inspection, although I checked under the crown board and added supers where the existing super was at about 1/2 full of bees to allow more space & to help against swarming!

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Help! They’re Swarming! (17th April)

Of the 5 colonies at the Cemetery, 3 had queen cells, some already sealed.   I did 2 artificial swarms, transferring the old queens into Nuc boxes with a frame of brood, another of honey and extra bees shaken in.   The other colony was trying to swarm with many bees around the entrance, but as the queen was clipped, they could go nowhere.   I couldn’t find the queen so reduced queen cells to 1 open one (as I had for the other 2) and prepared an ‘apidea’ mini mating nuc and added a sealed queen cell as an insurance policy.

What a morning, it took nearly 3 hours to sort all it out. All colonies are full steam ahead with some honey being stored in the supers.   The Murphy bees are much better behaved, no sign 'yet' of queen cells and both are now of good equal strength.

Open queen cells
a really good frame of worker brood
Open queen cells
a really good frame of worker brood
Wild drone brood ready for culling (anti-varroa)
My apiary is growing its camouflage (comfrey)
Wild drone brood ready for culling (anti-varroa)
My apiary is growing its camouflage (comfrey)

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Flowers for the Bees to look out for!

Flowers are everywhere and on warm days the bees are having a field day.   Look out for the red pollen of the Horse Chestnut, the Sycamore is one of the best nectar producing trees, the Dandelion is everywhere.   There are so many others such as May, Laburnum, Apple and Pear.

Sycamore flowers
Apple blossom
Sycamore flowers

This is the season when there are many good bee flowers, mahonia, hazel, sycamore and chestnut will soon provide the nectar, pollen and plenty of others.


Future Report will include:

Continue with swarm control. Give plenty of space by adding supers for both bees and honey storage.   I’m looking forward to a bumper year already??


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