March - April 2007
Special Entry dated 31 March 2007
This is shaping up to be a very unusual and extremely early beekeeping year here in north Alabama. The Redbud bloom normally feeds the spring brood however this spring I have 2 to 3 capped production supers on my larger colonies and Redbud is still in bloom. I have had near no swarms and the hives are loaded with bees. April may explode with swarms but it does not appear that is going to happen. I find very few queen cells (in fact I have found none). The three or so swarms that I have had were simply overflowing with honey and bees because I didn't super them. I had planned to move them and I wanted to keep the weight down. All three swarms moved into "trap hives" that I set up every year for catching swarms. All 3 are huge swarms that will probably make a super of surplus honey this year if all remains as is now. The host colonies may also make a small honey crop.
If you have not checked for storage space, do it NOW as any delay from this point will almost assure you of swarms. It appears right now that those colonies with adequate available storage space may not swarm and making splits might reduce your honey crop. However if you want to increase your colony count, this appears to be THE year to do so and do it now.
North Alabama had no winter this year except for 2 weeks in mid February and it was not really that cold then. I believe this to be the reason for the super early start. The few swarms that have occurred were as early and the first week in March which is one month earlier than I have ever known swarms to occur in North Alabama.
The following was entered the March15, 2007.
Based on colony populations and capped brood, 2007 looks as though it might be a year for lots of swarms. Plan on making your splits as soon as you can get queens or consider making queenless splits and allow the bees to grow their own queens. To do this make sure that you have eggs in at least one of the donor frames of bees. While queenless splits are much slower to develop than live queen splits that might still be better than watching your bees swarm while you are waiting for live queens.
Rotate your brood boxes for swarm control but DO NOT ROTATE boxes if it splits the brood cluster. If the cluster is centered or near centered between the two boxes so that the top half of the brood cluster is in the bottom of the top box and the bottom of the brood cluster is on the top of the bottom box DO NOT ROTATE. If you do, the brood cluster will be split and separated. Should real cold weather occur, the bees may not be able to cover both of the separated brood clusters in which case they will abandon one and cover the other resulting in a sizeable brood kill.
1. Heft your hives and feed if light. Right now is a critical time for food stores – bees need lots food stores to start the spring crop of brood. Colony loss can occur quickly right now.
· If you wish to stimulate brood rearing, fees a 50/50 (by volume) mixture of granulated sugar and water. If inexperienced be careful, as improper control of a stimulated colony will near always result in swarming.
· If feeding to prevent colony loss (starvation) feed a saturated sugar solution.
· I find that I can dissolve 25 lbs of sugar in 2 gallons of water by heating the water to near or at boiling then add the sugar in about 3 steps. Do not allow sugar water to boil as it can cause "burning" of teh syrup which is unhealthy for bees and can cause diarrhea.
· Stir continuously until sugar is fully dissolved.
· Don’t add the sugar, then turn on the heat and leave or otherwise allow the sugar to become caramelized as caramelized sugar is not good for the bees.
2. Get your new wood wares built and painted (external parts only) ASAP so the paint can cure before you introduce bees. Bees inserted into freshly painted hives will often abscond. This could be a $50.00 package or a 6-lb. swarm.
3. Get your new frames built, wired and ready for foundation.
· There is no rush in getting foundation in deep frames to be used for new colonies. Honeybees seem to like the smell of new comb so put it in, if you have the time flexibility, just before you need it (a week or so).
· The same rule applies for supers but you have more flexibility there. If you will be using both drawn comb and foundation, and have the option, place one drawn frame in frame position 1 followed by 7 frames of foundation and place a second drawn frame in position 9.
· For volumetric efficiency, 10 frames is fine in all brood boxes.
· For production supers, use 9 frames if foundation (even if the outer two are drawn) or 8 frames if all drawn comb.
· Since bees maintain 3/8 to ¼ inch workspace, fewer frames yield thicker combs. Thicker combs are easier to harvest however to few frames with foundation can result in random comb placement that is a bear to get out at harvest time.
4. If you are starting from packages, get them on order NOW.
5. If purchasing splits, get them on order NOW.
6. If making splits, if you use live queens, get your queens on order NOW.
7. You should treat all colonies with Terramycin spring and fall.
· See alabees.com (click on medicating your bees) for details.
· Follow medication product labels to the letter.
· Get all medication out of the colony 28 days before honey production.
8. Get your swarm traps ready and put them in place ASAP.
9. If you have old frames and or hives to clean, do it now so as to have time for repairs and repainting, if necessary.
10. Get ready for swarms. It is a few weeks before swarm time but the first swarm near always surprises you.
11. Get started on weed control by cutting the grass around and in front to hives.
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Last update 5/6/07 BRF