21 Apr 2023

Spring Bee Update

Martin Davies

Normally, during this time, they are reasonably dormant, relying on their stored honey to survive until the plants and trees start to produce pollen and nectar they feed on. However, due to the mild conditions, they have been out foraging, burning up important energy reserves and looking for food that isn’t there. During the brief periods of mild weather, we have had a quick check on the bees to ensure their well-being and that they have sufficient food stores.  The weather conditions have meant that we have had to supply them with additional feed, in the form of sugar fondant and specialised bee food supplements, to keep them going until their proper food is available or they can get at it.

The other downside of the mild weather is that, as they have been flying more they have been dying out quicker than usual. Whereas a “summer” bee has a life expectancy of 6 weeks their winter equivalents normally life of 16-20 weeks. There is a normal dip in colony size between the winter bees receding and the new spring bees hatching, where the colony shrinks slightly in size. This year has seen more winter bees dying before the Queens have begun laying new eggs in any quantity and, as the new bees take 21 days to emerge, some colonies have been struggling. At the Gardens, of the 22 colonies we had going into winter only 16 have survived, and a couple of the remaining ones are quite weak and are being nurtured in the hope they will make it through the next crucial few weeks.

Once May arrives, the queens will be in full laying mode, increasing from around 1,000 eggs each day to around 2,500 by June. We do have several very strong colonies, and May is the time when the new queens are produced, so we hope to be able to increase our existing stock of colonies and may even have a few excess ones that can be offered for sale.

The new apiary location at Cae y Gwenyn has had the new track completed for access. This means we can get a buggy there to help in the movement of equipment, hives and, more importantly, removing the honey crop when the need arises later in the year. The storage shed is due to be relocated from Bryncrwys soon, allowing us to get back to the business of looking after the bees without having to transport everything to and from the new site each time we visit.

Also, at the new site, we have been fortunate to have been given quite a lot of small trees and we have planted these along the existing and new fence lines in a bid to create a hedge barrier against the prevailing wind and also provide the bees with some food sources close buy. The trees include Ribes, hawthorn, Blackthorn, Crab Apple, Hazel and willow. It will take a little while to develop but will be not only a great asset for the bees but enhance the beauty of the existing site further.

Martin & The Beekeeping Team

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