Jobs for the Month
- Move to weekly visits, if weather good
- Watch the hive for pollen and flying bees.
- Check stores and feed if necessary – see below.
- Remove mouse guards and woodpecker protection.
- Carry out your first inspection if the weather is warm enough, minimum 14 degrees C. The appearance of blossom on flowering currant is the traditional sign that the weather is warm enough but use a cover cloth to avoid chilling the bees. Have a quick check for a regular brood pattern, some stores and that the bees seem happy, then close up – no need for a full inspection!
- Look out and test for nosema in weak colonies.
- Be ready to put the queen excluder on if plants appear to be ahead of the normal season.
- Check, repair and clean all your equipment including
- brood frames and make up new brood frames
- supers & queen excluders
- spare hives, frames & foundation
- set up bait hive(s) – swarming season is almost here
- Start your new season record sheets. Do they contain all the relevant information you’ll want for this year and to allow planning for next?
- Put out Asian Hornet monitoring traps and check them daily to release any non-Asian hornets trapped
Suggested frequency of visits – move towards weekly (weather allowing).
Traditionally March is the month in which the apiary comes to life and the active season begins. On warmer days we will see bees flying and taking in pollen from early spring plants such as snowdrop, aconite, mahonia, grape hyacinth, hellebore, and from hazel, alder and willow catkins. All the plant photos below were taken at the end of February, even rosemary and cherry were starting to bloom.
Our queens will have been laying for some time and that laying rate will increase further if the weather is typically spring-like. Increased activity inside and outside the hive means a higher consumption of stores and if there is very little forage around, there is danger of starvation. More colonies starve in March than at any other time of year. Therefore, continue to check stores by hefting – a colony should have at least 6kg (12lbs) of stores at any time of year – and feed if necessary.
If the weather is cold and bees aren’t flying freely, continue to feed candy or fondant: you may need to use an eke or empty super to make space under the roof but you can use some insulating material to fill the extra space. If you think your bees are starving you can place the block directly on top of the frames above the bees – use an eke or empty super to create space under the crown board. See February’s tip of the month.
If the weather is warm and the bees are active and flying freely, feed 1:1 syrup in a contact feeder: you can also feed an invert sugar syrup like Ambrosia. Don’t be too quick to feed syrup: the weather must be warm enough for the bees to make cleansing flights and there is also the risk of syrup being stored in the brood frames, reducing space for the queen to lay.
Once you start feeding you must keep it up until there is sufficient forage to sustain the colony – bees can starve in a surprisingly short period of time. If the bees are confined to the hive in a sustained spell of bad weather, you may also want to feed some pollen substitute, such as candy pollen. The point of feeding is not only to keep your bees alive but also to help the colony build up ahead of the nectar flow: eggs laid mid-March will become May’s foragers