Norfolk Beekeepers' Association Jobs For May

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Jobs for the month...

May 2008

This year, May is following a more normal seasonal pattern, unlike last year. Oilseed rape is always quite variable due to planting dates, weather, pigeon damage etc. Apple blossom gives a much more reliable marker for early or late seasons. This year it seems to be just right with blossom breaking on early varieties and the main flush in the coastal areas about the 10th to 20th May.

This is an excellent time given good weather to insert replacement brood foundation, having removed 2 or 3 old or unproductive combs that have excessive drone cells (more than 5%-10%) or have holes or broken lugs etc.

The main jobs in May are to give adequate room for both honey storage and population expansion. Supers are not there just for honey storage. Ensure queen excluders are sound so the queen stays in the brood box, although 'slim' queens can sometimes slip through. If no brood is found below the queen excluder, supers should always be inspected.

Swarm control is the other major job for the beekeeper. If room is provided in the form of supers this helps to alleviate congestion. Removal of queen cells on a regular basis can control swarming to a great extent, but does not guarantee success. If stocks are of good strength, splitting the colony can be done either to make increase as well as helping with swarm control, or just as a control method. the 'splits' can be reunited after removal of the less prolific queen in the late summer. This does, however, require more equipment and may result in some loss of surplus honey. The ability to find the queens later on is also required.

Clipping the queen bee's wings on one side by about 50% helps as a swarm control. If a swarm issues from a hive the queen may be lost, but the workforce returns to the hive, giving the beekeeper another day or two to remove queen cells before they hatch. If the queen is lost, leave a nice looking queen cell and, with a little bit of luck, a check in 4 - 5 weeks should see eggs and young brood. Make a note of this situation. Clipping of the queen is a form of "marking" and informs the beekeeper that no supercedure has taken place when ascertaining her age. Never clip or mark a virgin queen.

A frame of drone base foundation can now be inserted as part of Integrated Pest Management [IPM]Varroa control, but it must be removed before any drones hatch - 28 days from being laid. This procedure should be repeated again in July. This can remove around 500 to 1000 mites.The drone brood can be destroyed or fed to the chickens, checking before disposal to get an idea of varroa mite numbers in the brood. Regular checks with an uncapping fork are an excellent way of testing to see if mites are present in any great number. Swarms, once hived, can be "dusted" with icing sugar to remove a good percentage of varroa mites. This needs to be done in conjunction with an open mesh floor and is very effective.

Stocks that are lagging behind should be requeened. Nothing is to be gained by retaining unproductive units. Rearing one's own queens is both satisfying and part of good beekeeping.

NBKA Apiary Demonstrations will cover methods of swarm control and queen rearing and Integrated Pest Managment. Questions from members on these and other bee related subjects are always welcome!

May 2007


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