Spring Beeyard Prep

the-kitchn
image of beekeeper Henry Storch from http://www.thekitchn.com

Spring is taking her sweet time this year, idling toward us in swathes of rain and chilly breezes. But imported queens are being produced as we speak…and once they go into their cell building hives, the countdown begins.

My first batch of imported queens is due to arrive from Chile (courtesy of Light Valley Prunes) on March 29th, the forecast for which is: 50F/10C, mostly cloudy with a little rain.

Hah. As if we ever get “a little” rain in the Pacific Northwest. Ola senoritas!

So this week I am cleaning, scraping, sanding and painting the first set of nucs and hives that I will need for this batch of queens.

What I wish I could be doing is the spring chores in the beeyard. It will be a week or two before that can be done comfortably, but it should be done before the bloom of the Big Leaf/Oregon Maples, Acer macrophyllum, which is usually very late March, and brings with our first nectar flow the day when we can finally count up how many of our colonies survived winter.

Because until the maple flow, the bees are not safe.

Big Leaf Maple blossom March 31 2016 LO.JPG

My inspiration for spring prep in the beeyard is Karen Bean, of Brookfield Apiaries. Karen has a wonderful blog entry that is my template for what to do at this time of year:

Spring Beehive Tidy and Preparation

In a nutshell, Karen organizes the hives such that the queen is in the lowest box with the open brood, the capped brood is in the box above her, and honey is close to the brood nest. This allows the queen to fill the lower box, while the brood above emerges to become happy little nurse bees, vacating their cells just in time for HRH to move upstairs and lay up the top box. Once the top box is laid up, Karen rinses and repeats…thus maximizing the colony growth while discouraging swarming.

This is an opportunity to clean the bottom board, swap out equipment in need of repair, and draw a bead on how each of your colonies is coming along. You may take this opportunity, as I will, to pull out bees and brood into the nucs or hives that will receive your purchased queens.

This year I have several projects on the go. The big project is the beginning of a multi year queen improvement program. We need better queens and bees in our area!

The second is to document the first year of a few bee packages, with a view to creating a template of care for new beekeepers. It should be very interesting to follow a set of willing new beekeepers as they start their bee-zy careers.

Welcome to 2017!

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