By KATHY COX
It feels like Spring is trying to make its way here. The bees are bringing in lots of yellow pollen. The first real flowers in Spring are dandelions. Cherry, Maple, Plum, Osoberry and more trees and bushes are starting their bloom. Next week is going to be closer to the right Spring temps! Several things to keep your bees happy and healthy are reversing the boxes, putting the brood on the bottom and the empty on top and treatments for mites. Do a mite wash and then treat them with Mite Away, Formic Pro or Oxalic Acid. Also, it is time to switch from dry sugar to liquid 1:1 syrup. You don’t have to be exact in measuring. The bees don’t know the difference. Feed new colonies until the Blackberry flow. If you stop, the wax makers stop. Pollen patties cover the bees’ diet when they can’t fly because it is raining. Syrup, nectar and pollen stimulate the bees to raise their brood. If you are new to beekeeping, you should Google “Swarm” and “Supercedure” cells. You must know the difference between them. Find a video and watch “Orientation” flights. New beekeepers get confused when they see this, thinking it is swarming behavior. Nurse bees do this for 3 days before becoming Foragers. The first day they climb up the front, backing off to memorize their boxes. The next day they fly around the apiary and memorize their placement. The third day, they follow the instructions of a waggle dance and begin the last half of their lives. Summer bees live 3-6 weeks and Winter bees live 4-6 months.
Have extra equipment on hand for splitting and catching swarms. Do an inspection every 7-9 days to find swarm cells before the swarm issues.
If you find pupae being tossed out or dead brood around the edges, it means the queen is doing her job, but there are not enough bees to cover the growing brood. Bees cannibalize the pupae, larvae and eggs. They eat the protein. Smart bees! Nothing is wasted.
Drones are starting to be raised. It takes 24 days for a drone to emerge and another week for them to mature and harden their exoskeleton to go to the DCA and mate with queens. No nucs can be started successfully until there are capped drones in the hive. Queens take 16 days to emerge and another week to mature and fly to the DCA. They don’t really have great mating flights until the temperature is in the 70’s. This is why local nucs come to us later than California nucs.
Make sure to check the past 2022 April in the Apiary newsletter. (There is an early and late April ’22)
Provide water for the bees. A flat pan with corks or rocks for the bees to stand on is the best. Add a small amount of salt for a mineral treat!
Newbees! What not to wear as a beekeeper: no black, red, fuzzy. It makes the bees think of bears. Why red? Bees see colors differently from us. They see colors on the ultraviolet spectrum. Red looks black to them. For fun Google to see how bees see colors. There seems to be landing pathways on the flowers leading to the pollen and nectar. Fun Facts! Don’t eat a banana before you inspect. It smells a bit like their alarm pheromone. They don’t like body odor, bad breath, perfumes or heavily scented products like perfume or shampoo.
Inspection time is here. I use a wagon to take everything to the apiary that I need, and I use it to return things to the garage. Take extra equipment, smoker, lighter and fuel. Keep an inner cover to put on a box that you want to move aside. It keeps the girls from pinging you. Invest in a frame perch. This makes it easy to remove the outside frame to make room for the inspection. It keeps you from rolling bees when you inspect and most importantly it will save you from killing a queen. I bring nails and a hammer for putting on Robbing Screens. Tools, half cup scoop and mite washer, bottom board cleaner and my saving grace, “BENEDRYL LIQUID GEL”, which, when applied right after a sting, will keep you from itching and swelling and pain. Start by lighting your smoker. Give one puff. Lift but do not remove the top cover. Puff once or twice and put the lid down for at least a minute. Why do you smoke bees? What does it do? When the bees smell smoke, they think of forest fire. To be ready to relocate the colony, they eat up the nectar/honey to take with them. For you, it means they are busy moving down to the honey and not up pinging you.
Find your neighborhood captain on the website. Email them and introduce yourself. Remember to take pictures of things to show them when you are having a problem. Keep a notebook even if you only have 2 hives. You don’t have to find a queen during the inspection, just find eggs and you’ll know she has been there in the last 3 days.
Until May, have fun with your bees.
Master Beekeeper U of Montana
PSBA VP, EDUCATION CHAIR, Neighborhood Captain