Spring has sprung, and it is time for beekeepers to spring into action to ensure a good season.
Early spring inspections
- Is there a laying queen?
- Is there a good brood pattern?
- Inspect for brood diseases – chalkbrood is a particular problem at this time of year
- How much food is left? Do you need to provide supplementary feeding?
- Do you need to add a super? Or even remove honey that the bees have collected over winter?
- Perform swarm management – split hives, replace older queens, reduce congestion
- Change your small hive beetle traps if necessary
- Combine weak colonies, remembering to kill one queen first and place newspaper between the two boxes
- Ensure honey made from supplementary feeding does not get extracted
- Ensure there is a water source close by
Video: Swarm control, University of Guelph Honey Bee Research Centre
Maximising your honey yield
- Build-up your worker population before the flow, perhaps with pollen and/or sugar supplements
- Replace older queens
- Use high-quality queens that have been selected for traits such as honey production and low disease incidence
- Make sure there is sufficient space for incoming nectar storage
- In a strong flow a super can be filled in as little as one week, don’t let your colony get honey-bound
- Provide drawn comb rather than foundation to reduce bees’ energy expenditure
- Removing filled supers and replacing them with supers of extracted comb can stimulate foraging
- A single strong colony will produce more honey than two weak colonies – combine as necessary
- Don’t overstock an apiary
- Don’t place apiaries too close together, allow 3km between apiaries where possible
Pay attention to your bees and their needs.
It is important to remember that, whilst spring may have arrived for other people, it does not necessarily mean that it has done for you. Paying attention to the weather, flowering conditions, and the activity of your bees is critical to understanding what stage of the beekeeping calendar you are at. Even on one side of a valley conditions can be drastically different to those on the opposite side, so management should take place as necessary, rather than as a blanket rule. Pay attention to your bees and their needs.
D Somerville (2010) Spring management of bees. Primefact 999, NSW Department of Primary Industries
About the author Nadine Chapman