1 Carry out thorough inspection of colonies
2 Check for queen cells – swarm control/supersedure
3 Monitor varroa population – mite drop
4 Keep a look out for Small Hive Beetle
The pussy willows have just started flowering here (12th March) and the bees have started foraging a little more freely. April heralds the start of the beekeeping year insofar as regular inspections/manipulations are concerned. There should be days this month that are warm enough to carry out your first full inspections of the hives; if the bees are active and you feel comfortable in a T-shirt, then it should be alright. For beginners, it is an excellent time of year to familiarise yourselves with the internal workings of the hive, as bees should behave quite placidly, being far too busy to react to what you are doing.
Make sure you have the smoker going well and gently open the first hive. As you work through the broodnest you should be trying to answer five questions:
Swarm control. Towards the end of the month, some of the colonies may start swarming preparations, especially if the queen is in her second full season. If you see several occupied queen cells, then you must make some sort of division or the bees will do it for you in a few days’ time. More details are available of the complete Newsletter of the options available to you.
If, however, you see only one or two occupied queen cells, and these are on the face of the comb rather than on the edge, it is probable that the bees are arranging to supersede their queen. In this instance, I would leave them to get on with the job, but just keep an eye on them in case they change their minds and go the swarming route instead.
Varroa. Keep monitoring the varroa situation, and by far the most accurate way of doing this is by uncapping a patch or two of drone brood with an uncapping fork and looking for mites on the pupae. Counting natural mite fall over a week or two can lull you into a false sense of security and lead you to believe that your bees are fine (see BBKA newsletter for October 2007 – article on use of open mesh floors). Also, do keep a wary eye out for Small Hive Beetle.