Bees not surviving into Spring

Colony Dying Out as it comes into Spring

One of my colonies came through the Winter with three seams of bees and very small patches of brood and after checking on it 3 weeks after the initial season inspection it has died out. There were plenty of stores so haven’t starved but obviously haven’t had the numbers needed to keep the brood temperature up. The dead bees are clustered on the frames which is always a sad sight.

So whilst February was very warm the weather in the second half of March turned cold with some days of sleet. No overnight frosts but certainly chilly. In hindsight I should have either moved the colony into a nuc or added a frame of brood from one of the stronger colonies.

It’s always a challenge at the start of the season as the other colonies are only just starting to build up and therefore it’s easier to put off a decision rather than taking decisive action.

Marking and Clipping Queens

There’s a lot of differing opinions about marking queens and especially clipping them.

When I first started I was like most novice beekeepers very nervous about this aspect of beekeeping. Also I didn’t see the need for clipping queens but over the years I’ve come to appreciate the benefits. Even if you don’t clip your queens I think it’s good practice to mark her. When you need to perform some form of manipulation on a hive, for example splitting a colony, it almost always involves isolating the queen so the quicker you can find her the better.

I used to use a “crown of thorns” cage to isolate the queen when I first started but never liked it and thought it a bit of a crude way of marking the queen. So I switched to using the standard technique of picking up the queen with my right hand and placing her on the top of the forefinger of my left hand and trapping her legs. Once secured I can then mark her and clip one of the wings. To make it easier you can either take your gloves off or pull them tight to make it less fiddly.

Couple of points to make on marking

  • Make sure the queen is fully settled in and as a rule of thumb I wait until at least there is capped brood from eggs she has laid
  • Perform the operation over the open hive just in case you drop her
  • Less is better than more with the marking pen, you can always remark her if it’s clear enough
  • Make sure you have the pen handy and with the cap off -a number of times I have not been ready and struggled to hold the queen and look for my pen at the same time
  • Wait 15-20seconds before releasing her back into the hive to give the marking fluid time to dry
  • Clippings – I know that a lot of beekeepers don’t believe in clipping and think of it as cruel to “damage” the queen. For me two things persuaded me to adopt it as a standard way of managing my queens.

    I normally try and inspect my colonies at the week-end but sometimes the weather or family circumstances prevent me carrying out a weekly inspection. As result I have lost a few swarms in earlier years. I’ve also seen evidence of Bees capping over a queen cell in less than a week, but this might be just me not paying enough attention when I last inspected them. So at least with a clipped queen it delays a swarm issuing for a week until one of the new virgin queens emerge.
    The second reason is that I have an out apiary site and even with weekly inspections and rather than have a swarm issue and cause bother for the landowner I would rather buy myself more time and stoma swarm from issuing. So far I’ve not had a problem with a colony rejecting a clipped queen.

    Colony Inspection 30th June

    Heatwave continues with temperatures getting to 30C. Shows what a difference a week can make – panic over about whether I have mated queens in Aqua and Flax. Need to learn to be more patient. Took Denim (old queen from Aqua) to Mole River site in anticipation if uniting with Flax – but as there was a laying queen decided to put into full size box.

    Rose-bay Willowherb just starting to appear as well as Hebe and Buddleia – ahead of when it should be out. No sign of a June gap this year.

    Bees have been bring in a lot of honey – needed to add 3 supers.

     

    Total Supers in use – 9, 3 full, 3 partially full and 3 added this week

    Colony Inspection 17th June

    Been away for week and the weather has remained very good all week. Mock orange now in flower (not good for bees but a good indicator for the season).

    Bait hive is definitely occupied. Didn’t inspect A as the new queen will be yet to be mated.

    Also picked up a very large swarm and brought back to home apiary.

    Colony Inspection 10th June

    Weather has been warm all week. Put out bait hive and also gave a swarm box to our swarm collector.

    Update – bait hive looks to be occupied just 2 days after setting up

    Elderflower finishing and geranium in full flower.

    Colony Inspection 3rd June

    Weather still above average and now quite warm.
    Elderberry in flower.

    Colony Inspection 26th May

    Weather had been good, temperatures above average at around 16C. Have been some heavy showers.
    Chestnut still flowering and hawthorn now finishing.

    Colony Inspection 23rd June

    Mini heatwave on. Bramble now in flower everywhere  and lots of activity around the hives.

    Well it looks like Aqua reared 3 queens judging by the opened queen cells. In my rush before I went away I didn’t do a good job taking down the QCs. Also now think that the bait hive (Indigo) probably captured one of the cast swarms from Aqua. So not many bees left in Aqua and not bring in much stores. Thinking back they probably din’t have enough space and I should have acted sooner.

    Colony Inspection 18th May

    Weather finally changed with the past week being average for the time of year. Previous 3 weeks were again very wet.

    Chestnut is just finishing

    Colony Inspection 15th April 2018

    Has been a very wet and cold start to Spring, probably 2-3 weeks later than average.So initial inspection was to see what state the colonies were in and whether they still had sufficient stores. Main worry will be lack of pollen given the weather.