Swarm season is upon us. That seems odd to say when it’s only April. There have been a few swarms that have issued out already in the Willamette Valley. That being said, now is the time to have some extra equipment ready, especially if you have your name on a swarm list. It doesn’t hurt to carry your gear and bee boxes around with you in the car or truck in case you get a swarm call. Be courteous and thankful when you representing your local association.
Anyone buying packages will need to have all their hives ready for the bees. Do you have the hive site picked out? Is water available? You won’t want your bees going to the neighbors swimming pool or hot tub for water. It doesn’t hurt to add a little salt to their water.
Your nucs should be ready for their second brood box. If the frames in the first box are 75 – 80% drawn, it’s time to add another box. Continue to feed sugar syrup until the frames of foundation have been drawn out into comb.
Overwintered hives may be ready for honey supers. The maple is currently in bloom. It can produce a surplus of honey. If you can find queens to purchase, you could split the strong overwintered hives. At least make a few nucs. Nucs are a fantastic beekeeping management tool. They can solve many problems. For example, if a hive should become queenless, you have a nuc ready. Problem solved.
As you are performing hive inspections every two weeks, be looking for eggs. When you see eggs, you know the queen is present. How is the brood pattern? Nice and solid or somewhat spotty? If most of the brood is in the upper box and there are some empty frames in the bottom box, switch the placement of the boxes (top box now on the bottom, bottom box now on the top). This will give the queen some egg laying space in the upper box. A few queens will use both brood boxes while most will work up and don’t seem to get back down into the bottom box. Be on the lookout for swarm cells. They are generally on the bottom of the frames.
Educate yourself on what American foulbrood looks like and what the symptoms are. Be on the lookout for it throughout the season. There is a lot of American foulbrood out there now. It has been suggested that beekeepers shouldn’t treat prophylactically anymore. That has caused foulbrood to rear its ugly head. Many beekeepers don’t know what to look for. It seems the continued study of honeybees and beekeeping is a requirement.
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