All beekeeping is local. These chores are for the Midlands of South Carolina. April starts with the nectar flow in earnest and the beekeeper is busy with hive space management, swarm prevention, and swarm control. The bees will be in high gear growing populations, seeking opportunities to swarm, and storing excess nectar. Weather in the Midlands typically stabilizes with few surprises and the bees are actively flying longer and longer hours each day.
Beginning beekeepers get a “gentle” introduction to beekeeping as the bees are less defensive due to the availability of plentiful food. Also swarming behavior is not typical during a colony’s first season if space management is followed and the bees provided with proper space as the colony grows.
1) Monitor for queen cells – check suspect hives every seven days for swarm cells hanging on bottom bar in boxes above the brood chamber in hives with screen bottom boards and all boxes in hives with solid bottom boards.
3) Plan on checking every two weeks for hive body management i.e. space management.
4) If not yet added, place additional honey super(s) at the beginning of this month. On strong hives, install two honey supers if frames have drawn comb. Weaker colonies should receive less supers accordingly. If drawn comb is not available and foundation is used supers should be placed one at a time. Periodic checks should be made during the honey flow to see if additional supers are needed.
6) Unite weak colonies with strong colonies unless suspect of disease. Replace weak queens.
7) Make splits if increasing total hives is a goal with mated queens or allow colonies to re-queen themselves. Splits can be used to curtail swarm behavior but will decrease honey production. If increase is desired, split any hives not previously split and re-queen any weak queens. Queens should now, or soon, be available if needed.
8) Actively manage your hives designated for honey. Manage brood space allowing the queen room to lay. Utilize other methods of swarm prevention. There is no longer time for a colony to re-queen itself in time to raise foraging bees in time for the nectar flow. If needed, add a purchased mated queen or combine colonies if not diseased if seeking honey production.
9) Begin IPM program. Place beetle traps or other hive beetle management items.
10) Watch for swarms daily and inspect for swarm cells no less than every 7 days. (Bee math alert: An egg laid in a queen cup is capped on day 9 at which point the colony may swarm.)
11) If not already done, bait hives should be in position at various points 360 degrees surrounding apiary. Place bait hives at 50 to 150 yards away from colonies, edges of open fields, close to “bee” aerial landmarks, scent lightly with lemongrass oil, and a 1 1/4″ circular entrance equals the 2 square inch recommendation.
12) Notice Dogwoods blooming and azaleas in earnest the first week. Sassafras and Tulip Poplar blooming. Holly may be late this year and bloom in early April but is short. Also, notice the increasing greening up of many, many nectar producing trees.
13) Email your club Secretary asking what you can do to help, or volunteer to lend a hand in your organization. Many hands make light work. If you’d like to see your organization grow as well as offer and maintain your current level of member services your help is needed.
For your viewing pleasure this month Kirk Anderson show us how to capture a swarm:
The above are general guidelines for the average bee colony in the Midlands of South Carolina. We all have hives that may be outperforming the average. We also have colonies that underperform the average. Use your judgement in making changes suggested here. Beekeeping is an art as well as a science. Only you know the many, many particulars associated with your physical hives as well as the general health and population of your colonies.
For your viewing pleasure here’s Greta Garbo in 1936 “Camille.”