by STEPHEN HARRIS, Tumalo Bee Academy
Spring has sprung. April was a critical time for our bees. Last winter was cold and heavy with snow. Not so this year. Because of the warmer winter there were days our bees had opportunities to fly and do house cleaning. Unfortunately, there was nothing to bring home. Consequently, they used more of their stores then normal.
By now, the colony should be building up a population of workers. If they lack the stores of honey and pollen, they may not build up as quickly as they should. April was the month to check and supplement them with fondant and pollen substitute if needed. Moving frames full of honey closer to the cluster would help to keep them from starving.
A colony coming through the winter with a large population may already be thinking of swarming, (May through June is our swarm season in Central Oregon). There are a few ways to remedy this. One, is to give them more room by adding an extra box to the top of your colony. Reversing the boxes helps as the bees like to work up rather then down. CAUTION, if there is brood in both boxes reversing is not a good idea, as it may put space between the brood chamber.
Now that we are in May, inspections are important. If your bees feel crowded they will start to build swarm cells. These must be removed in order to keep the colony from swarming. Another method is to split your colony. This can be accomplished by removing the frame or frames with queen cells to another box along with a couple frames of honey and pollen, essentially making a new colony. Make sure you do not move the queen from the parent colony. It is important that you move enough bees with these frames to support the split until the new queen starts laying eggs which will take approximately 30 days. The difference between swarm cells and supersedure cells is that swarm cells are typically on the bottom of the frames while supersedure cells are normally found anywhere in the middle of the frames. Finding supersedure cells means you have a queen issue.
Now that you have prevented your bees from swarming during the month of May, the population growth is at full throttle. June brings preparation for the honey flow that will be here in July and August. Mite counts are recommended and apply treatment if necessary. Your bees are on autopilot through June, July and August building up population and starting to store any extra nectar and pollen above and beyond what they are using on a daily basis to maintain the colony.
Bee a part of the solution by raising your own colony of bees in your backyard. Tumalo Bee Academy, through Tumalo Garden Market, has a year-round program teaching anyone interested in how to properly care for and maintain honey bees at home.