Anticipation builds… As the days become longer and warmer, our curiosity gets the best of us as beekeepers for that inevitable new season visit to the bee yard. Our mind flooded with questions – “Did they survive? Are they going strong?” and so much more. It is indeed an exciting time as the initial life-giving saps start to plump up buds in eagerness for a grand and colorful winter emergence. The new bee year has begun.
After we take notice of our hives, the initial work begins with a yard visual inspection. Safety first! They may not be the most stylish facet of our wardrobe but footwear with traction is important. Soggy grounds may be waiting to greet us as well as obstacles such as fallen tree branches or slick grasses. Attentive ground maintenance, while wearing a veil, and having a smoker lit in the background for safety, are the essentials.
Take heed and observe your hives. Do you see activity in all of them or are there some doorsteps that are quiet? Many times, the quiet hive has a plethora of activity within, unsuspecting to us, as we quickly pry off open the cover to satisfy our curiosities! Now that we know the life condition of our apiary, it is time to delve in and aid our bees in what they are doing best.
- Inspect each hive quickly, looking for life
- Look for animal visitation signs near or around the hives
- Notice the location and size of the cluster and check for adequate food reserves
- Lifting (tilting) the back of the hive can be a good indicator on resource amount
- Scrape and clean bottom boards from overwintered debris
- Straiten or level hives as needed
- Take note of equipment condition and make a note to replace or repair for the next visit
- Think about future hive expansion space (for those splits or swarms)
- Physically remove dead-outs
The initial inspection is simple, giving us a gauge on what to expect in the near coming weeks. Feeding our bees a 2:1 (water:sugar) syrup will stimulate brood rearing under the right warm spring conditions and will reduce starvation. Even though pollen and light nectar may be coming in, the spring build-up can cease due to starvation and lack of nutrition as carbohydrate and protein resources are in high internal demand to build up the future army of foragers. Unexpected frost might be lurking around the corner, too. This is the “spring turnover” when a new generation of bees replaces the “survivor bees” that held down the fort during winter or extended pollen dearth.
As the temperatures become warmer and more extended, our hives will require a full colony inspection:
- Open the hive and look for the cluster location, note the size
- Move the frames and center the brood chamber allowing for expansion on outside frames
- Examine overall bee health looking for pearly white larvae floating on pillow of white pristine jelly
- Notice the amount of eggs, up-capped brood, and examine the wax caps of capped brood (no piercings)
- Note the amount of resources, feed as needed
- Do a varroa mite monitoring (sugar shake, alcohol wash or CO2 injection) for documentation and benchmark purposes (or use sticky boards!)
- If varroa mite counts are at or above threshold consider an early spring treatment, such as Apivar, to reduce initial mite load numbers encouraging a healthy foraging season – keep in mind that mite numbers will build up, as the bee brood builds up
The foundation of a successful bee year starts with bee health and giving our honey bees the opportunity to expand and prepare for the honey season ahead. These initial inspections and simple husbandry techniques will begin leading the way for more intensive inspections, prolific population growth, and perhaps a robust honey harvest. As beekeepers, each year starts with a routine but soon those set of tasks change meeting the needs of each and every one of our hives. We learn, experience, and have a new adventure each visit. It may cause us to reminisce that today is like year’s past, but we can never predict – such as that upcoming unexpected swarm…… Happy Beekeeping.
Apivar – legal notices :
APIVAR® 500 mg Amitraz Bee-hive strips for honey bees. Indication(s) for use: Treatment of varroosis due to Varroa destructor sensitive to amitraz in honey bees. Contraindication(s): Do not use in case of known resistance to amitraz. Withdrawal period(s): Honey: zero days. Do not use during honey flow. Do not extract honey from the brood chamber. Do not harvest honey when the treatment is in place. Brood combs should be replaced with new foundation at last every three years. Do not recycle brood frames as honey frames. Read carefully the instructions on the product booklet label before use. Special precautions to be taken by the person administering the veterinary medicinal product to animal: This veterinary medicinal product contains amitraz which can lead to neurological side-effects in humans. Take particular care in case of concomitant treatment with monoamine oxidase inhibitors, hypotensive treatment or if you have diabetes. Amitraz may cause skin sensitization. Avoid contact with skin. In case of contact, wash thoroughly with soap and water. Avoid contact with eyes. In case of contact, rinse with plenty of water immediately. Usual beekeeping protective clothes including impervious gloves should be worn when handling the product. Do not eat, drink or smoke whilst handling the product. Keep children away during application of the product. Wash hands after use. Do not inhale or ingest. If side effects are noted, seek immediate medical assistance and show the label to the physician. v0917
Apivar is a veterinary medicinal product. Please ask advice to your veterinarian, pharmacist or sanitary organization. In case of persistence of clinical signs, consult with your veterinarian.