For some beekeepers, the honey crop seems to be the most important goal of their beekeeping year but for me, I only take any surplus honey leaving a good store of honey for the bees. This year was no exception. While others were taking honey off their colonies in the springtime, I chose to leave their stores. There's good reason for doing this and it's all about the changing climate and helping the bees to get through their year.
This week we've seen a big rise in the temperature and the sun is shining in a glorious blue sky. That's good news for our pollinators and other insects because it means those buds on trees and flowers that have been just on the edge of opening are in full bloom. There's nothing like standing in front of a hive and watching honey bees darting out of the entrance and on their way to reap the benefits.
While out walking our dog along the country lanes, a certain whiff in the air caught my nose at the weekend and it's one that you don't easily forget - it was the distinct smell of Alexanders (Smyrnium olusatrum) growing in the hedgerows. Looking closer, the flowers were covered in honey bees and other insects gathering pollen and nectar as their reward.
Am quite pleased with myself this weekend. I managed to prevent one of my colonies from swarming. The weather wasn't great but knew if I left this particular colony any longer than my regular 7 day inspection routine, then the chances are they would swarm. The queen has been busy expanding the size of the colony and at some point they would be making swarming preparations. I waited until mid-afternoon when the weather brightened up and went to take a look.
Four days of relaxation and enjoying my honeybees... that was the plan this Easter but with a nectar flow on, it's a race to keep my colonies of bees adequately supplied with space inside their hives to expand. Not only that but to provide additional space to process and store their nectar. This year it's the first time that Oil Seed Rape (Brassica napus) is within their flying zone and they are busy filling their supers.
Driving to work last week, I noticed across a long section of hedge that a couple of fields were taking on a bit of a yellow tint to them. Passing an open gateway to a field further up the road on the right, an abundance of yellow flowers had almost opened overnight with the warm weather. What does this mean for the beekeeper? Well, if conditions are right, it could mean an early crop of honey.
Many a beekeeper has been heard to say that when the flowering currant (Ribes sanguineum) is in flower, the weather is warm enough for the first colony inspection of the year. This month, my own shrub has come into flower and the weather certainly is warming up enough for me to take a quick look inside each of my colonies. The Ribes is usually one of the early flowering shrubs that provides much-need nectar for colonies coming through the winter and looking to replenish their stores.
Can you remember this time last year when we were battling through snow storms? Now it's an onslaught of one storm after another bringing a deluge of rain and strong winds. Despite the rain, I still go and visit my apiary once a week to check all is well and to make sure all my honey bee colonies have enough stores for the following week. It's vital at this time of year to check as stores will be diminishing rapidly as colonies begin to build back up.
As we start thinking about our spring preparations and making sure all our bee equipment is ready for the season, how many of us look around us to see what is in the larder for our bees at this time of year. Again, the weather has been unseasonal with a few days of warm weather thrown in. The girls have been out flying using up vital energy which means they will be depleting stores within their hives with not a lot for them to bring back in the way of nectar.