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Mantel Farm Beekeeping Newsletter - March 2017

March 2017 Beekeeping Notes from Amanda...

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The first inspection...

This month I look forward to making the first full inspection of my colonies. I usually wait until there is a sunny, calm day with the temperature at least 12°C, preferably a couple of degrees more, usually first half of March.

I check the health of my colonies and based on that, finalise my assessment of which ones are best for breeding from, requeening or culling. 

If any colonies are dead, seal them up immediately.  The rest are likely to be smaller than in the autumn and it is a good time to remove any dark frames which are more or less empty of pollen, honey stores or brood. A pollen blocked frame can act as a barrier to the expansion of the brood area essential for the colony to strengthen. If the weather is not yet consistently warm then it would be best if you can replace these with a frame of sterilised drawn comb but always leave the colony in contact with stores on one side of the cluster at this time of year. If the weather is warm or the colony large then foundation can be used to replace the removed frames. Leave the insulation on to help them draw it out.

What to do this month...

Bees moved into the Super?
If you have left them with a super of stores, and over winter they have moved up into it then you can remove the old empty brood box for recycling. When they are ready for more space and the weather is warm give them a clean brood box of foundation and as soon as quite a bit is drawn and the queen is laying in it, then swap the boxes to get back to the standard configuration.

Feed if necessary:
Keep an eye on their stores and if they need more by now it should probably be warm enough for 1:1 syrup, just enough to keep them going until there are flowers around.

Spring Clean:
At this time I make a start on swapping floors for clean sterilized ones, not having enough spare to do them all at once, and also take a pile of clean crownboards to replace any with lots of propolis or brace. Any mouseguards can be removed. Oh and if you have not yet got your wasp traps up, don’t leave it too late.

Swarm Preparations:

Get ready for shook swarms in April; use the first inspection to determine which is required on the basis of colony size, state of comb etc.   

Have marker pen and scissors at your first inspection ready to mark and clip a new queen if you see her. You will be surprised how many supersedure queens are produced in the autumn. Have a spare hive ready as swarms have been known to occur in late March. There is not much warning, apart from keeping an eye on when they start producing drones, until then you need not worry too much about swarms.

Monitor Varroa:
I put an insert under one colony for a second time, as a mouse had messed up the first drop of a week, this time I had a striking example of the reason why we need to keep the insert in for a week in order to get a meaningful count. After 4 days I checked to make sure my mouse barrier had held and counted 22 mites (oh dear!) cleaned it off and put it in for the rest of the week - only 1 mite, resulting in a 23 mites in 7 days or about 3 a day, still serious but half a bad as if I had used the first figure of 22 in 4 days. An icing sugar dust a few days later produced 17, and a few days later 10 mites; reassuringly supporting the lower figure and not requiring any further treatment.

Latest research...

Taktic, an Amitraz-containing mite treatment illegal in this country, is showing signs of resistance in the US and has been withdrawn from the market by the EPA. All chemical treatments have the potential of causing mite resistance, apparently even oxalic acid can, so it pays to keep an eye on how effective your chosen treatments are, and perhaps alternate between different treatments to keep the mites on their toes.

An unexpected sugary snack can give bumblebees a little buzz and appears to lift their mood, even making them optimistic, according to research that suggests pollinators have feelings, too.  Researchers said their study lends support to “the notion that invertebrates have states that fit the criteria defining emotion.”

An American horticultural institute has recently released a Best Management Practices (BMPs) for Bee Health in the Horticultural Industry. It is absolute rubbish! They say there is no scientific evidence that neonics harm pollinators etc. I wonder which sand-dune they have their heads buried in, or maybe an orange goblin has got to them, to protect his cronies in the chemical industry.

Incidentally, I have been reading about a new method of applying Oxalic acid, in glycerin, on a paper towel laid over the brood, being trialled in US. This is supposed to last a month before the bees remove it, thus spanning more than one brood cycle and obviating the need to remove brood. The bees seem to tolerate it better than trickle or vaporisation and it is less hazardous to us. Another slightly easier method is ground Oxalic crystals mixed with icing sugar and dusted on, being tried in Europe.  Watch this space!


New advanced training course
Sat 3rd June:

This year we have introduced an advanced beekeepers day for those wishing to keep their bees healthy and content by understanding their requirements and behaviour. This course will cover important manipulations such as finding the queen, requeening, shook swarm, basic queen rearing, collecting & preventing swarms, managing the honey crop and how to recognise, prevent and deal with diseases, pests and other problems.
Find out more...

Our next beginner's weekend course
Friday 18th &19th March:

Book now, just a few places remaining.
Find out more...

2017 Stock of Cedar Hives now available:

Full range of Cedar National and WBC Hives, complete hives and individual hive parts available.
Find out more...

mantel farm beekeeping course beehives

Amanda holds regular Training Courses at Mantel Farm and contributes regularly to our newsletters.  Amanda is a professional ecologist who has been keeping up to 25 colonies of bees for about fifteen years. She has attained BBKA theory modules 1-with credits & distinctions and has also won prizes at the National Honey Show for honey & other products.

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