Rich wrote 2 years ago on WVBA Hive – Swarm season is upon us – time to have some extra equipment ready; carry your gear and bee boxes around with you in the car or truck in case you get a swarm call.  Anyone buying packages or nucs will need to have all their hives ready for the bees.  Continue to feed sugar syrup until the frames of foundation have been drawn out into comb. Nucs are a fantastic beekeeping management tool.  They can solve many problems.  For example, if a hive should become queenless, problem solved, if you have a nuc.

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 but 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. Also educate yourself on what American foulbrood looks like and what the symptoms are.  Be on the lookout for it throughout the season.  It seems the continued study of honeybees and beekeeping is a requirement.

FLORA:

Apple, Blueberry, Buttercup, California Wild Lilac, Dandelion, Empress Tree, Heath, Maple, Oregon Ash, Pear, Photina, Scotch Broom, Wild Mustard, Crimson Clover, Radish, Cultivated Mustard, Cultivated Turnips, Meadowfoam, Lilac, Lavender, Raspberry, and Cultivated Blackberries.

April in SURVEY MONTH. If you have not done so PLEASE fill out the pnwhoneybeesurvey. It includes both questions on survivorship/winter losses and some questions on management. It should take only a few minutes

April is a potentially busy bee colony management month. April in my experience is the toughest month to ANTICIPATE and STAY AHEAD of colonies. It is All about the weather. Colonies can starve or they can expand much too rapidly or exhibit steady growth or simply stay weak. All in the same apiary. You have to check when you can. Avoid the urge to open hives if too cool or windy and limit openings to as short a time period as possible. Heft hives from the back, remove covers and look down when April weather is too cool, or wet, or breezy.

If you like/wish to manipulate your hives…..

Depending upon the season and the colony, in April you can manipulate a lot or only a little. Feeding colonies (at or within the top) is often helpful but feeding stimulates growth and can result in colonies too powerful which might then starve. If you feed syrup do not let feeders run dry. Consider protein patties in addition to syrup. Strong colonies require as much, if not more attention, than the weaker colonies, but it is often the weaker colonies that command our attention. Weaker colonies after all are so much easier to inspect and manipulate. But it is the strong colonies that get foulbrood, will starve, or swarm.

In April we start new colonies as packages or nucs to make up losses or increase colony numbers. If successful overwinter, split strong colonies allowing divides to rear their own queens or adding purchased queens. We can cull older, darker frames and substitute new foundation, since we always need more drawn comb and we generally get better, more uniform drawn frames in the spring. We can reverse boxes or checkerboard top boxes since most colonies will be under the top cover. To expand colonies, open the brood area and help reduce brood nest congestion. We should start to look for developing queen cells (mainly between the brood boxes) and when we discover them, practice a more pro-active swarm control (splitting, opening up brood area and relieving congestion in the brood area). Remember it is not the size of the colony but the degree of congestion in the brood rearing area and age of queen that leads to swarming. And aggressive mite control management will mean integrating mite population reduction controls – drone brood removal, splitting colonies and organic acid ProFormic are all useful.

Whew!! April is a Busy time!!! – April colony stewardship requires skill and experience….and patience.

Or if you prefer a more let-‘em-bee approach….

Swarming from smaller-sized cavities (single box for brood) is “nature’s way” of bees making up winter losses and avoiding death from diseases, such as AFB and their major way of reducing populations of too many mites. If you are just unable to or too busy to manage your bees in April and you keep bees where swarming is not going to alarm neighbors and there are nearby wooded areas that include abundant cavities for new home-sites and you do not re-establish dead-out colonies with a package or nuc and you are not interested in honey production, letting bees swarm from smaller hives may be your stewardship preference.

This “natural” or “Darwinian approach” method is not for beekeepers with neighbors or a good idea for urban/suburban apiaries. If you are able to capture some of the swarms, your own or from feral colonies, put them in dead-out equipment – you may have better acceptance if you clean the boxes and frames of dead bees first but it is not absolutely necessary. This let alone method is designed to eventually help develop bees better able to fight mites, although it will take a lifetime to see any difference.

Dewey Caron 2018