In the apiary

February

As we are likely to get a cold spell and, despite the seemingly large number of winter bees there is still little or no brood there may just be time to apply a winter treatment to your bees to reduce the level of varroa mites in your colonies. But do follow the instructions carefully for any treatments you use (Api-Bioxal should be your preferred treatment) or you may end up killing your bees instead of the mites.

Do your bees have sufficient stores? Do you need to top up the fondant parcels you’ve been giving them? As the bees will be flying at every opportunity and there’s very little forage out there they are eating much more than they can ever bring in so need constant re-supply. This can be a very trying time for the bees and a good strong colony may quickly dwindle away. Not only do they now have themselves to feed but as the days slowly begin to lengthen the queen will begin to lay in earnest again and they will have to feed the young larvae that are beginning to hatch.

Also, keep a check on mouse guards. Hives make ideal winter quarters for mice to spend the time out of the frosty weather. Watch out for rats too. Look for signs of the woodwork having been gnawed. Rats can do untold damage to costly brood boxes.

Are woodpeckers a problem? Strips of coloured carrier bag hooked under the roof and left to flap at the sides and back may deter these for a while. Chicken wire cages for each hive, however unsightly they may look, may be a solution but can be removed and rolled up come late spring. Dangling unwanted C.D.s in the spaces between hives may provide a deterrent as they spin in the breeze. WBC lifts placed temporarily over a national brood box will provide an extra layer of protection and insulation. Plastic owls may work.

Also, this is the time of year when those association subscriptions have to be paid.  Basic subs. are the same as last year. It may seem a lot at first but subs do cover vital insurance premiums which in this day and age when everyone seems to want to sue are simply good sense.