The Honeybees in April

The Honeybees in April - early honeycomb and preparing for the honeyflow #beekeeping
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April is the lean time of year for gardens and honeybees alike. Hardy spring blossoms are everywhere but the ease of summer is still far away. It’s now that a winter storm can sweep in to decimate delicate buds on trees or to freeze emerging seedlings. A change in weather can be just as deadly to honeybee colonies since they’re running out of winter stores and using what’s left to build up the hive. A lean larder could spell disaster for hives in early spring.

Before my knee operation last week I decided to stop by all three of my hives to make sure they had enough stores and frames to build on. It may be a few weeks at least before I can make it out for another visit and I really don’t want to be worrying about them while I’m trying to heal and take it easy. Swarming season will be on us soon and I’m already stressed about that. Each year I’ve lost bees from hives in May/June and I figure it’s been mainly down to them doing too well and not having enough space to build up and store honey.

The Honeybees in April - early honeycomb and preparing for the honeyflow #beekeeping

On visiting my single hive in Onchan I found that this could have been the case at any time! I left it on a full super of honey for the winter and expected at this time of year for that super to be about half empty. I was surprised to see that most of the comb was full and that they desperately needed more space. I popped another super (box of frames) on top so think that will keep them busy for the time being. First they’ll need to build the beeswax comb, then they’ll need to bring in nectar and pollen, then make the honey, and then cap each cell of honey with more beeswax.

The Honeybees in April - early honeycomb and preparing for the honeyflow #beekeeping

I only realise after looking at this photo that I forgot to take the Mouse Guard off the hive entrance. They’ll be fine until next time but you really need to take off that metal screen during the honey flow because it can knock pollen off the bees’ legs as they bring it into the hive. Honeybees eat both honey and pollen – honey is their source of carbohydrates/sugars and pollen provides protein and vitamins.

A few weeks ago I visited my two hives in Laxey and took them up their second Supers. Like the Onchan hive they’d been on a Super filled with honey through the winter and had plenty of stores when I’d visited them last. I should also mention that my badly behaved White Hive, whose residents are pretty aggressive, is now on Brood-and-a-Half. This means that the Queen bee not only has access to the bottom box filled with large frames to lay her eggs in but also access to the Super box above it. The reason is that I had no other choice at the time. I’d planned on smoking the bees down and putting a Queen Excluder under the Super on the hive but the bees got a bit frisky and so I decided to just place it on top.

I’m curious to see if the hive produces more honey and if the colony grows bigger but I’m also a bit wary. This hive is a real meanie and I should really think about replacing the Queen. It’s all the eggs and sperm she has stored inside of her that produces all the other bees and her progeny seems inclined to sting first and ask questions later.

The Honeybees in April - early honeycomb and preparing for the honeyflow #beekeeping

Because the bees have spent these past few weeks cleaning up the old frames and building beeswax in the top-most Supers, they have very little honey stored up in the frames below. I’m a little concerned about this but we’ve had warmer days and I’ve seen plenty of forage flowers and trees in bloom. Still, the weather forecast has been a bit worrying and it’s apparently snow, wind, and freezing temperatures across northern Britain. It’s hard to believe when I can look outside and see golden sunshine shining through new leaves on the trees along the road. I’ll be keeping my eye on the weather none-the-less.

The Honeybees in April - early honeycomb and preparing for the honeyflow #beekeeping

 



My hives are all set with empty Supers and are on their way to another glorious year of Manx honey production. I’m just four days in from my knee operation and already getting around on crutches so I hope I’ll be a lot more mobile before the bees need any other urgent care. They should be fine but I’m keeping it at the back of my mind to ask Mr. E to have a look on them if I’m not able to get up to them by mid-May.

The Honeybees in April - early honeycomb and preparing for the honeyflow #beekeeping

 

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6 Discussion to this post

  1. CJ says:

    Lovely to see them all doing so well Tanya. It's a little dream of mine to have bees one day, so I'm always interested in how you look after them. It all sounds quite complicated! But you're clearly doing a brilliant job. CJ xx

  2. Tanya Walton says:

    Glad to see the bees are doing so well….do you carry out swarm control Tanya?? If so what method??

    There have been many early swarms this year…I know of one local beekeepers whose bees swarmed in march before she managed to do her first inspection!!

  3. Jason says:

    Hi! Great website you have here! I recently got my first beehive a few months ago. The previous “beekeeper” had gotten the bees, and basically changed her mind about being a beekeeper. She got that hive in march of last year (2014) and hadn’t done anything with them.

    The hive only had 7 frames in a 10 frame box…. and the bees filled in the rest. So it’s a pretty big mess. I’ll have to wait till next spring and get them to move into a new super, build comb, and then i’ll do a switcheroo and exclude the queen from the messy hive. The messy hive will have to be gutted since the frames are all bee-glued in place.

    I’ll have a ton of wax and honey though!
    Cheers!

  4. Neil Page says:

    Dear Tanya,

    I have just set up two empty National hives on a local allotment site awaiting either a nucleus colony or perhaps a swarm in which to colonise them.

    My eleven year old son is keen to get a hive of his own this year.

    Last year in Suffolk for one reason or another all the local beeks experienced many swarms. Not quite sure what was up with the bees but hoping to have a more quiet season this year.

    Good luck with the forthcoming season.

    Thank you

    Neil and Sammy Page

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