Monday, March 8, 2021

March Adventures in the Apiary

 

A Beekeeper’s guide to a New Season

When I was out on one of my usual walks today, it suddenly hit me: the birds are chirping, the sun feels warmer, and these tiny green buds opened on my apple and cherry trees. March is perhaps that time of the year when Mother Nature hasn’t quite decided what she wants to do next, the weather is unpredictable and beekeepers’ to-do lists largely depend on it. This year is no exception.

While climate change has put beekeepers through quite the turmoil during the past few years, I’ve always found ways to adapt my routine to weather’s fickle temperament. This month is certainly busier than February! Having warmer days recently, my honey bees started taking flights and so I’ve decided to have quick look inside my hives.


Just before I began my work, I kept wondering “What if didn’t feed my bees enough and the last cold snap weakened the colonies?”. As you all know, March is the month when the queen is laying enormous amounts of eggs and that brood requires a lot of food to fully develop. This increase in population can mean 2 things: the hive can starve before the main nectar flow starts or the bees feel crowded and decide to swarm.

Neither outcome calmed my nerves and the pressure of having to keep my inspections brief (30 seconds or less) didn’t help either, but luckily, I had Apiary Book by my side.

As always, Apiary Book was open on my smartphone and the voice assistant ready to record my notes on what I saw inside the hive. I particularly like this smart feature because, during inspections, I never have my hands free to actually type in my observations, yet I can record everything I see about the bees, my queen, the honey etc. It’s so easy and practical that I basically never start my work in the apiary without it.

So, there I was all suited up, smartphone on my side, looking inside my first hive, when I felt my worries disappear. The colony was intact, there was a significant amount of brood laid, and some of the food I had left 10 days earlier was still there, but needed to be supplemented soon. Lesson learned: Don't be caught off guard and ensure that your bees have plenty to eat, as March is the month when starvation is at its highest possibility.

In Spring, I personally prefer using honey frames that I preserved from the year before, to which I usually add a protein patty. Of course, some beekeepers might choose sugar syrup to feed their colonies, if the weather allows it and it’s warmer during the day (above 8-10 Celsius degrees). Our advice: to stimulate the queen to lay eggs, uncap honey frames you’ve kept over the winter and place them in your hives. Replace syrup with honey frames and you’re bound to see better results! 

During the next days, I’ll continue feeding my bees just the right amounts - tracking this in my Feeding section of Apiary Book - just until we have the first bloom and there’s a steady source of nectar naturally for my bees.

Meanwhile, I’ve prepared a short March Checklist to help you get through this month, but please remember to also get in touch with other local beekeepers and learn what they are doing.

MARCH Checklist

ü  Order nucs, packages, hives and queens (if you haven’t already)

ü  Check the hive food stores and supplement with pollen substitutes for rapid hive growth

ü  Check the status of the colony

ü  Check each hives entrance for blockage

ü  Re-check plans for new colonies, re-queening or other related up-front operations

ü  Make sure all equipment is ready and painted for bees

Happy Beekeeping!

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