Early May Apiary checks
It’s now early May and it has been warm enough to begin working with the bees. My first action was a quick inspection to assess each hive’s strength. Those already fully occupying both brood boxes are obviously strong. However, a few were just occupying the upper brood chamber. I reversed the brood chambers on those weaker hives; top chamber to the bottom and bottom to top. Reversing the brood boxes is thought to stimulate the queen to lay more and also retard the urge to swarm. On one weak hive I added a frame of capped brood from a stronger hive and since then this hive is getting stronger.
Last week I went through all hives to quickly verify they were all queenright (plentiful eggs and brood in various stages of development). I did not specifically verify the queen was present; the eggs tell me she was present no more than 4 days previous to my inspection. Luckily all were queenright. If I did see the queen I marked her with a white dot (white signifies 2016; yellow significes 2017). This will help me assess if my hives are superceding their queens.
In late April I took several frames of brood and honey from all of the strong hives in order to set up nucs for the queens I have been trying to raise. My ulterior motive was to also slightly weaken the strong hives and lessen their desire to swarm, but still leave them strong enough to pull in a good honey crop.
During my hive inspections I saw swarm cells in 2 of the hives. I removed the frames with the swarm cells and started another nuc or hive. So be forewarned. Swarm time is soon to be upon us. My guess is that on the first sunny day with high 70’s temperatures we will be seeing swarms.
In late April I had put honey supers on the stronger hives. My early May inspections showed only a few of the very strongest hives had placed honey in the supers. The best had about 1 ½ frames of honey already gathered.
I did get a few packages this year. They did not arrive until May 2nd. All have settled in, released the queen and are raising brood. I will continue to offer them feed until the honey flow has definitely started. I marked all queens with a yellow dot (2017).
My next task for this month will be to assess varroa mite levels. I plan on doing a powdered sugar shake on about one in five hives. Based on the results I will treat all hives or none. I will also do another inspection of all hives before the end of the month to again verify all hives are queenright.