March has been a frustrating month as the weather here in Surrey has been so up and down. I look at the weather forecast every morning on the breakfast TV and also on an app on my iPad. There are many aspects of bee farming that we can control, but the weather is one that is out of our hands. From bright sunshine to strong winds, we have to contend with them all.
I managed to get in a couple of shook swarms that were badly in need of comb changes. If you remember from one of our earlier blogs, we took over the running of some hives at Great Fosters hotel in Egham. We were so busy last year that they never got the shook swarm that they needed as the frames were in a terrible mess. I looked at the weather forecast and took a chance on a couple of sunny days to carry out the work. Frames were prepared with new foundation and after finding and caging the queen I set about changing the frames. Some may say that this was too early in the year but I took the risk and a week later, I can say that the bees have drawn out most of the frames and eggs and larvae can be seen. I have since given them another gallon of feed and I am hoping on the next inspection I will see all of them drawn out. Shook swarming a colony is a good way of getting nice drawn combs, reduce the number of varroa mites and also gets rid of some of the other nasties that may be in the combs.
We have found in the past that the colonies seem to do much better later on in the season after this treatment, and so we routinely shook swarm every colony each year if we can. There are always colonies that get missed due to the work load of a honey farm and so we try and change at least three or four combs on those that we do not have time to do.
Some of you will probably be asking what happens to the old frames, especially the ones with brood on them. I did give a couple of the frames with brood to another colony that could do with a boost and that one will be shook swarmed later this month, but they should benefit from the extra bees that were emerging. The other frames were all melted down for the wax.
Another job I have been concentrating on this month is getting some of the new poly extensions that we bought from Paynes bee farm onto some of our overwintered nucs. They were all placed onto the nucs with frames of foundation and given a feeder full of 2:1 syrup to help draw the frames out. The feeders were also a new design and I really like them, a much needed asset for these nucs. A week later and they were all drawn out, so I took a few out that were not laid in by the queen and replaced with more foundation. The drawn frames will be stored for later in the year for making nucs or as part of my swarm control. These nucs will be my ‘brood factories’ as Michael Palmer calls them, and will be used for making nucs and for our queen cell builders in a few months time.
The wind has been battering us for two days with speeds of around 50/60 mph. I got a call from Peter who has sheep in the field next to one of our apiaries, to say that a couple of hives had been blown over. It has always been a windy site and it is not the first time the hives have been blown over. Luckily the hives are strapped together and so remained almost in one piece. We soon got them upright and I decided to place them on pallets and not on the hive stands as before. This should keep them lower down out of the wind and less likely to fall over again. The other hives on this site will also be placed on pallets later this month for the same reason. This is the third time we have had this problem there and so we hope to eliminate it by making use of the pallets.
This month has also seen us rent a shelf in a shop in Horsham, Sussex. This is a good way of getting some of our products into a shop at a reasonable price for the rent. The owners are moving to new premises in a few weeks time and so the shelf is just a temporary measure until then. We will be adding more products and honey to the shelf when they move and so will post some more pictures when this happens.