Spring Inspections

Now is the time for spring inspections. In fact the time is nearly gone and if it hadn’t been for Eircom I’d have written about this at the end of March. However,  if you haven’t already done so – next time your bees are flying freely you’d better get in there and take a look at them.

Assemble everything you might need and have it close by:

  • Spare brood box and floor;
  • Spare frames – drawn and undrawn and a bucket to put your wax scrapings into;
  • Spare crown board;
  • Queen marking and clipping gear;
  • Water sprayer, smoker or both.
  1. Remember the primary aim of these first inspections is to establish all is well ie that the queen is laying normally and the bees have sufficient stores and space.
  2. Secondarily and only if the bees (and the weather) are calm, you can look to replace old or broken frames and perhaps remove dead bees and detritus from the hive floor. The easiest way to do this is place the spare floor next to your victim and put the spare brood box on it then, one by one, gently lift each frame – checking for the queen as you go and place it into the fresh box. When all are transferred, move the fresh box and floor into the old position and close the hive with the fresh crownboard. You can now get scraping without upsetting too many bees. Aim to remove and replace two old black frames per year but remember, bees will not draw wax unless there is a flow  so if there isn’t – put frames with new foundation in at the back and move them in when there is.
  3. Thirdly, if you find the queen – mark her but you could leave the clipping till later in the year.

You will be looking to make sure the bees have stores although you will have been regularly hefting the hive through the winter and should already have a good idea as to the status of the stores. This year things are looking good and they almost have too much stores so if they appear to be honey-bound with no space to lay then remove a couple of frames of stores and replace with drawn comb or foundation if a flow is probable.

If you are a gentle beekeeper with plenty of time and good native bees you should be able to go through your hives without smoke at this time of the year. If you can, so much the better especially if you are looking for the queen.

As an interesting alternative to lighting the blithering smoker, try a water sprayer instead, imagine you are on a bomb disposal mission and crush not one bee. Creeping through the hive this way you will hardly disturb the colony at all and the queen will be right where you expect her to be – on a frame of eggs and very young brood.

A word of caution though –  make sure there’s only water and not insecticide in that sprayer. Beware – it can happen!

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