Another month has come and gone in the Flying Squirrel Apiary. Things continued to warm up nicely although the snow flurries and the overnight freeze last Thursday were not appreciated. In the past month one hive dwindled away; taking the apiary’s overall winter survival down to 82.5%. Russians did the best at 88%; Ankle Biters at 75% and package Carni’s at 60%. Several hives are still touch and go as to their survival.
During April I did a cursory inspection of each hive. A prolonged inspection and hive cleaning won’t occur until short sleeve shirt weather arrives. Some hives were booming and others lagging, but then wide variation between hives coming out of winter is not uncommon. I did a little redistribution of frames of bees between hives to help out a few weaker hives and will probably repeat this again in May. The booming hives raised concerns in me about potential swarming, but I remembered that swarming only occurs after the honey flow has started and abundant drones are present. Although the bees were bringing in both pollen and a little nectar the conditions just weren’t right for swarming yet.
To date during hive inspections I have only seen one hive initiated swarm cell. I removed this cell and also removed bees to slightly weaken the hive.
During April I did a few hive reversals to try to stimulate the laggard hives. To the strong hives I added honey supers to ensure there was enough space for all the bees. Several of the strongest hives have already started putting honey in those supers. I hope this bodes well for a bumper honey crop.
Trying to be an optimist I started the month long process of raising some local queens. Trying to raise queens this early in Wisconsin is always risky do to the potential of cold temperatures and rainy or snowy weather. Juggling around the rain and cold days I did manage to start four batches of queens; both Ankle Biters and Russians. Two batches have reached the point where they needed to be put into the mating nucs. To date there a 24 mating nucs deployed; 13 with Ankle Biter queen cells and 11 with Russian queen cells. Here the booming hives became useful as I stole frames of bees to stock the nucs. (This has the added benefit of relieving the overcrowding in those strong hives thus lessening their urge to swarm.) By about the second week of May I will know if there are enough mature drones in the area when I see if the new queens have successfully mated and begun laying.
A few Ankle Biter queen cells maturing in the incubator
These cells are now in mating nucs
I did have a few packages on order, but to my frustration they did not arrive at mid-April as promised.
The month of May will be busy:
-Install the packages when and if they arrive.
-Conduct periodic hive inspections to ensure all hives remain queenright. All ECWBA members should be doing this every two weeks. New package queens have the nasty habit of dying or not being accepted. You don’t want to get into a situation with laying workers!
-Try to be in the apiary every warm sunny day about 10AM to look for swarms from your hives.
-Install honey supers as necessary since the honey flow in this area typically starts in mid-May. This is also a good time to perform an inspection to ensure your queen is laying.
-Conduct mite level checks on random hives to see if any remedial action is required. This will also allow comparing mite levels between my Russian, Ankle Biter and Carni hives.
-Continue raising both Ankle Biter and Russian queens. My records (and the queen color code markings) show the Ankle Biter breeder queen has survived one Wisconsin winter and the Russian queen has survived two winters.
-In mid-May I will be receiving several queens with which to start new hives:
- 3 Russians from certified breeders to refresh the Russian genetics in my apiary. (Because the bees in my apiary and in my area are not all Russian the genetics of my bees will slowly drift away from true Russian stock through interbreeding)
-2 Mite Maulers (Beekeeper Jon and I plan to microscopically inspect dead mites for evidence of bee caused injuries to the mites to see if we can confirm the benefits of the Ankle Biter, Mite Mauler and Russian bee strains.)
-Several Saskatraz-a winter hardy Canadian bee strain
Follow the ECWBA’s OurBeeBlog as the season progresses.