Norfolk Beekeepers' Association Jobs For March

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March

Once again, we have had a reasonably mild winter in Norfolk and consequently the bees have been more active than is usual. This means that brood rearing has probably been going on for longer than usual into the autumn and started earlier, meaning that stores are likely to be running low and the varroa mite has had plenty of opportunity to breed.
Tasks this month include checking the condition of the colony, making sure that your equipment is cleaned and ready for the new season and thinking about how you are going to control varroa this year.

Equipment

Clean smoker and hive tool - scrape off surplus propolis then wash with hot solution of washing soda dissolved in water. Rinse off with clean water. Use personal protection - i.e. rubber gloves, overalls/apron and eye protection. Prepare replacement frames with foundation. Select frames for removal from hives, either because of large areas of drone comb, deformed combs or very dark, old combs. Ideally replace 3 - 4 per year. The best time for insertion is during apple blossom season or when bees are working oil seed rape. Change or clean hive floor to remove over-winter debris. Blow-lamp floor if possible to sterilise. (Good practice to have at least one spare floor board.) Remove mouse guards but ensure entrance blocks are in place until mid - end April. Check over supers. They will be needed very soon when bees are covering 9-10 combs.(congestion provokes swarming). Scrape/wirebrush queen excluders clean.

Colony assessment

On a warm day (10C) when bees are active, and using a little smoke to control the bees, remove the crown board and make a fairly quick (2-3 minutes maximum) assessment of the colony's condition.

Food reserves - at least 2 or 3 full combs of sealed stores needed. If less then feeding will be required. Has the stock any sealed worker brood? At the time of writing, brood on 3 or 4 combs seems common, showing that bees are building up and will be using food reserves. Are there any signs of disease? Or Varroa damage? In the case of Varroa, deformed wings or discarded immature pupae? If so, plan to treat with Apiguard to control problem as part of "integrated pest management" (IPM) programme.

Feeding

Feed 1/2 -1 gallon of sugar syrup where required. Make up by mixing 1 kilogram of white granulated sugar into 1 litre of water. This can be with either hot or cold water but sugar dissolves quicker in hot. Feed when syrup has cooled.

Varroa Control

As part of IPM system of Varroa control, 1 tray of Apiguard can be used to control mite numbers in early Spring. Remove foil from tray, place tray OPEN SIDE UP immediately on top of brood frames top bars. (Supers should not be on at this time of year.) Provide some form of spacer under the crownboard to allow bees access to tray contents. DO NOT put tray in centre of cluster as this may cause a 'split' in the brood nest - on the cluster edge is more beneficial.

Drone brood removal

As part of IPM system, prepare ONE brood frame per hive with DRONE base foundation for insertion at end of April. Place it two or three frames in from outside comb, not in the centre. Clearly mark top bar of the frame. Remove when mostly full of sealed drone brood and, hopefully, hundreds of Varroa mites. Either destroy or uncap and wash out contents thoroughly - if any mites remain place in deep freeze for 48 hours, comb can then be re-used. Three lots of brood removal as described, per hive, per season, can remove one thousand or more Varroa mites.


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