Last week of March and first week of April we are doing 4 things to all the hives. Equalizing, Sampling for Varroa mites, putting on honey supers, and taking note how the best paraformers are.
To equalize hives in an apiary is really just the act of move frames of brood and bees form strong hives that are building up well to those that are not. You want all hives in the apiary to be equal in frames of bees and frames of brood that way all management is uniform saving time and trips to the bee yard.
This also will reduce the swarming impulse of any hive that is building up fast, while giving a chance for a hive to make honey that would have other wise been too weak to do so. I like to say, on a scale of 1 to 10, hives that are 10’s swarm and end up not making honey. The same is true for a hive you would rate a 5, but because they are too weak to make a surplus. With equalizing you make all hives in the apiary 8’s and that is a sweet spot of making honey.
This is one of the main reasons I suggest to beginner beekeepers to keep a minimum of 2 hives at a time.
Sampling for Varroa
I’m doing an alcohol wash on all hives this time of year for 2 reasons. First, I want to find any hives that have a relatively high infestation to prevent them from being a robbing lure later in the season. If there is a hive that has an infestation rate higher than .66% or 2 mites per 300 bees I will treat with formic acid. Second reason is because I want to know if my Varroa management during the winter worked and how well. The more data points I have the better I can refine my program.
Putting on Honey Supers
Early Supering with drawn comb the first week of April is going to give the colony ample room to expand and will reduce congestion of workers in the brood boxes. These supers are places on top of a queen excluder to prevent the queen from going up into them on colder nights. This is were the queen excluder is a great tool when used well. All part of swarm management.
So some might say, “Hey Pat way aren’t you reversing brood boxes?”. Well I am but in so many hives the bees are ready in the second or lower brood box and I do not want to break the cluster.
Putting on supers early only works as swarm management when you have drawn comb. I am still going to wait until I check hives May to add my boxes that have only foundation.
I’m taking note of want hives needed to have brood given to them and want hives were strong enough that they donated. The hives that needed brood need a new queen to prevent them from breeding with queens that are being produced. I can get that queen from an over wintered nuc which will be getting a queen cell soon. So by swapped the queens I am improving the drone end of my queen program. This a practice better explained by Brother Adam in his book “keeping bees in Buckfast abbey”
The hives that have high Varroa levels this time of year I want to ask questions like, what were their levels in November and want was done since than. If treated them different, say with 3 OA vaporizing verses 1 dose of Apivar(tm) during winter, you might learn something.
If you have less than 5 hives experimenting with treatments will tell you little as the sample size is too small and to be clear, when I talk about “experimenting” I am never using a mite treat outside of want is stated on the label, rather I am doing one thing to one hive and something else to another to figure out want is best for me and my operation.