Taking care of your colony in spring
After a long, cold winter, we’re all looking forward to spring – and bees are no different. As the days get warmer and blossoms appear, bee behaviour starts to change in preparation for a busy summer of honey production.
Worker bees will be out collecting pollen from new blooms, and the queen should be laying eggs to boost the population after a period of rest.
If you’ve left your hive to its own devices during winter, it’s time to do a comprehensive inspection and make sure all is well. Then there are a number of jobs that need to be done early in the season, to keep your colony in good condition throughout spring and summer.
Here’s how to get started:
Assessing the health of the hive
Pick a warm, calm day for your first big inspection – you don’t want to disturb your bees with chilly air or wind.
Look for evidence that your queen is still in place – you should see plenty of eggs and brood, and a good brood pattern. If you’re concerned that your queen has died or disappeared, inspect again after a few days to be certain. A queen-less hive can fail, so you’ll need to introduce a new queen quite quickly.
As always, you should also observe the behaviour of the bees, check pollen and honey stores, and look for signs of disease. Remove entrance guards if you used them, and consider switching the position of your brood frames sometime in October – this can encourage a better brood pattern.
Deal to disease
Spring is the time to treat for common diseases and pests, so your bees are protected through spring and summer.
Treat for Varroa mites even if you don’t see signs of infestation. There are a number of options for treatment, including synthetic strips, Oxalic Acid powder, Thymovar wafers, and natural methods like drone combs.
Many beekeepers find that rotating between Bayvarol and Apitraz strips is the most effective way to treat for Varroa. Both products are reliable, gentle, and easy to use. Because they have different active ingredients, switching between the two prevents the mites from building up a resistance to either treatment.
Feed if needed
Although bees do start collecting pollen in spring, it’s still the most common time for colonies to run out of food. After a long winter living on stored honey, they may run out before they can replenish their supplies.
When you do your first hive assessment, check that each hive has at least two frames of stored honey and a good supply of pollen. If they don’t, it might be worth feeding them with sugar water, pollen patties, or a bee nutrition formula like VitaHive. This supplement is designed to boost hive health, particularly during busy periods like spring.
Later in the season, you’ll need to add more empty honey frames for the bees to fill.
Stay, split, or swarm
Rapid population growth means spring and summer are the most common times for colonies to outgrow their hive, which can lead to the bees swarming. If you think your bees are about to run out of space, you have a couple of options to prevent swarming.
The simplest option is adding one or two new boxes to the existing hive, to give the colony more space. You can also split larger hives and create a new colony, although this may require buying and installing a new queen. Otherwise, leave them to it and deal with a swarm if it happens.
Spring is a time of growth and activity in the beehive. It’s exciting to see your bees up and about again – just make sure you keep an eye on them, stay on track with spring tasks, and they should be ready for a successful summer.