It was finally warm enough to strip the old wax out of the frames on the de-commissioned hive and sterilise everything. It may be paranoia but there looked to be some dark streaks on some of the frames suggesting bee dysentery. This can be caused by problems with feeding on crystallised sugar in the winter, or can be a sign of nosema, a microsporidian fungal infection. I of course feared the worst. With no bees left from that colony all I can do is a thorough clean, replace all the wax foundation and consider treating the other two hives ‘just in case’. It did not help my mood to find that every book and piece of Internet advice suggested using Fumagillin which they also point out is a banned substance – not very helpful. When it is warm enough I will need to look carefully at the other hives for poo stains. Tests have found traces of nosema in a high proportion of shop honey and if our bees find an unwashed jar lying around they will bring the spores back to the hive. A difficult issue in an urban environment.
As the month came to its end the weather was still horrible and cold. I put varroa boards in each hive to check the drop of mites and took the mouseguards off. I have been painting the hives and replacing foundation on the brood frames ready for the Spring build up.
April jobs for beekeepers
- Start your regular weekly hive inspections when above 16 degrees.
- If necessary, re-mark the queen while she is still easy to find!
- Add a queen excluder and super when the brood box is nearly full of bees – overcrowding can result in swarms!
- Replace old combs with new foundation. Do a full frame change using the Bailey technique and reduce the pathogens in the hives.
- Monitor varroa drop and organise treatment if needed.
- Make sure that you have the equipment for swarm control to hand and know what to do. I have a simple step-by step action sheet in my inspection folder.
April jobs for friends of pollinators
- Plant your annual seeds to feed pollinators.
- Even if you only have room for window boxes and hanging baskets you can plant for pollinators. Here are some ideas: alyssum, petunia, pansy, ageratum, lobelia and lavender. Select flowers with simple shapes and not the double varieties as this makes it difficult for bees and butterflies to access the nectar.
- Like cooking? Herbs are great for pollinators too: rosemary, thyme, chives, sage, marjoram can all be grown in tubs or window boxes. Add some viola tricolour and you can add these pretty, edible flowers to your salads.