April is usually the time when temperatures are high enough, and there is forage around, for a first inspection to be less disruptive to the bees, but with a warm dry February and then some high temperatures in March it seems that many colonies are already building up strongly and we can anticipate an early swarming season as a result. Apparently Winnie the Pooh made the very apt remark that “you can never tell with bees”- something that anyone who has ever kept bees will concur with.
April is also a good month to do an disease inspection before the colony has become too large. Essentially you need to shake the bees off every brood frame with a sharp downward jerk (trying not to bang against the broodbox or another frame) and then when it is clear of bees, examining the brood carefully for signs of anything untoward. If you are not sure about whether what you are seeing is healthy, do ask another more experienced beekeeper to have a look, or even contact the bee inspector. (details at the back of WB magazine) Do also consider coming to the bee health day on 6th April to discuss what you have observed.
Bob Gilbert in his very informative talk last month gave some insight into the complexity of communications in the hive. Bees use the sensory receptors that cover their bodies to pick up signals from inside and outside the hive. When as beekeepers we do an inspection we also need to bring our senses into play. If we strongly smell the banana like alarm pheromone, is it time to close the hive, if we open the hive and hear a roar, is the colony queenless, can we see how well the bees are doing, and lastly we need to switch on that large sense organ we humans have, our brain, and try to make sense of what we have observed to do the best for our bees.
There has been a lot in the news lately about the world-wide loss of pollinators, but apparently that is not true of honeybees who are more or less maintaining their status despite the threats from varroa and other pests. It is important that as beekeepers we help to maintain this status quo by continuing to be vigilant about pests like the Asian Hornet and by keeping up positive approaches to containing varroa within reasonable limits. Remember to put out hornet traps and monitor them regularly.
This is the time of year that American beekeepers transport huge numbers of honeybees to the almond orchard to pollinate the blossom. Going back to what I raised last month in the newsletter about the interactions between bees and flowers, it has now been observed that if bumble bees are also brought into the orchards, honeybees ‘dot about’ more from tree to tree so improving pollination - how little we know about the complexities of nature!.
Lastly, if you are able to help at the monthly ‘Sustainable Market’ at St Andrews Parish Church in the centre of Rugby, please contact Martin, or just go along to see what is on offer - the first Saturday of the month. This month there is a blues gig at 2.00pm and plastic free goods for sale.