The Bee Good Apiaries in May - Managing our colonies
It’s now the busiest time of the beekeeping year as the population within the Bee Good hives grows close to their peak of 60,000 plus bees in mid June. The population of worker bees within the hives rises in time to forage the spring flowers and fruit tree blossoms as they come into full bloom at this time of year.
We are now adding extra super boxes to each hive enabling the colony to expand and store the large volumes of inbound nectar coming in at this time of year. We are also inspecting the hives on a weekly basis for any sign of disease and particularly the appearance of any peanut shaped Queen cells which potentially signal the rapid onset of swarming. If this happens, half the flying bees along with the Queen will leave the hive en masse to try and establish a new colony elsewhere greatly reducing our honey harvest later in the year.
This previously split colony is building new comb fast!
Thats why we generally take a proactive stance and since mid April here in Hampshire we have been splitting the biggest Bee Good colonies into two separate hives, moving frames of eggs and larvae into a new box. The bees in the hive without a Queen will rapidly build a number of Queen cells and fill them with a large volume of Royal jelly before moving a recently laid egg inside to grow into a new Queen bee. Meanwhile, in the original colony we will replace the missing frames with spare ones that the bees will soon build up with new comb that the current Queen will soon lay with new eggs to replace the missing workers moved into the new hive.
This process prevents uncontrolled swarming whilst also giving us the choice of either expanding the number of Bee Good colonies generally or later merging the two colonies back under the new Queen as an insurance policy should the old one fail during the summer. In some cases we can actually run a two-Queen hive which soon becomes he bringing in massive amounts of nectar/honey if the conditions are good locally with lots of forage.
Meanwhile we are also busy collecting swarms of (hopefully!) others Honey bees from a variety of locations and rehousing them in a Quarantine apiary before checking for disease and temperament, treating for Varroa mites and then typically giving them out to new beekeepers as their first colonies.
It's all go with our bees from now until September!