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We had one freak week in February when the temperature was high enough to start spring cleaning. If you can do gardening in your shirtsleeves then it’s warm enough to open a hive.

Two hives were completed, being given a cleaned and sanitized brood box, floor and crown board. The amount of brood unfortunately was not as much as I would have expected given the mildness of the winter. Both hives only had four patches of brood; one on either side of the two central frames. The weather turned chilly again so the other colonies will have to wait. Although there was still plenty of stores, most of it had crystallized so for the first time ever I’ve had to offer them fondant. Not all have taken it down as there is plenty of water around for them to use the crystallized. In addition there has also been plenty of fresh forage. The large ornamental plum has been positively alive with workers when it’s had the sun on it and the white bullace was also worked vigorously when that was in flower

Plum tree in flower

Again, oxalic acid treatment was not as effective as I wished so I’ve had to follow it up with Apivar. Weekly counts of varroa drop show the numbers now down into single figures but hopefully I’ll get six of the hives down to continuous zero before the Apivar has to come out.

Only six of the hives have the chemical treatment as hives 1 and 2 are running another experiment with Beegyms. Stuart Roweth found better results by placing the gyms above the brood frames so I’ve placed two gyms in an eke above the brood in these hives. I’ll let you know the figures as they progress

Winter in the apiary said that one job seemed to simply make another and how true this has been. My old stainless steel smoker which has been going for decades decided to give up the ghost yet again. About six years ago the hinge on the lid rusted through (Yes. A mild steel hinge on a stainless smoker) so I repaired it by making a replica. That eventually gave up so I’ve made a much stronger one but in stainless steel from my scrap metal box. This is much harder to work than mild steel but makes a more robust job. I also found two copper bifurcated rivets and two pop rivets to complete the task.

Stuart Roweth has said he would like me to continue trialing his Beegyms but this time placing two of them above the brood frames. Although my hives are on top-space there isn’t quite enough room so I’m having to make some shallow ekes. The circular saw needed to rip some 12mm battens decided it had had enough, so yet again, one job generates another. I’ve bought a new blade, cleaned and polished the anvil-slides in the blade raise and lower mechanism and adjusted the bevel gears.

12mm ekes
Beegyms from http://www.vita-europe.com and http://www.thorne.co.uk

Two of these Beegyms will be placed above the brood frames when I do the first spring-cleans on hives 1 & 2.

Everything is late this year due to the very long winter; November to March. Colonies have been late building up but fortunately the rape has also been about two weeks late in flowering. This has enabled four colonies to be just about big enough for supering.

All the hives were spring cleaned between 14th and 20th April. This involved giving each colony a clean floor, brood box and crown board. All frames were inspected for disease and age and yellow spacers added to frames which had become too dark brown and needed replacing. These frames will be gradually worked to the edge of the box at each hive inspection and then replaced with foundation once any brood has emerged.

The dirty hives were scraped down and then scorched out with a blow-torch before being used again.

Stuart Roweth has produced yet another new version of his beegym and I will be trialing this in one of the larger colonies. (www.beegym.co.uk)

I have returned to the training scene this year with just two young lady students keen to learn about this absorbing hobby. Having just two students, rather than the six or seven in the past, will I am sure produce a much more rewarding learning environment.

The Asian Hornet justifiably continues to feature high in the list of threats. I have two lure traps, based on the National Bee Unit water-bottle design, hanging in the garden and charged with some of our own home-pressed apple juice. One by the hives and the other by the bee shed. Fortunately nothing yet.

The big question on my mind is whether 2018 will be a repeat of 2017 when it comes to oil seed rape. As the month comes to a close the rape has been on flower for two weeks now and the real-feel down in the apiary is -3, it’s blowing a gale and raining hard. It’s been like this for a week now and is set to continue.