Aaaaah, April! My fantasy is that older bees have been telling fantastic stories all winter to their younger kin about vast clouds of white plum and apple blossoms and fields of golden dandelions to be seen in springtime.
Finally the time has arrived! On a good day, a dozen or more pollen-laden foragers will land on a hive’s front porch every 10 seconds, porting different colors of pollen into the hive: white, bright yellow and orange, blue to purple, even green pollen is being packed into cells from the ever-increasing variety of flowers in surrounding gardens, orchards, and meadows.
Now the apiarist can make the first real inspections to see how colonies have fared through the winter– which hives have persisted, which have perished, and whether a weak hive might be paired with a stronger neighbor for a better start. Colonies are building up their numbers, preparing legions of foragers to send out into the freshly painted, rainbow-blooming world.
For the beekeeper, a few April tips:
- Use black foundation for better contrast when you are searching for eggs.
- Employ your cell phone during hive inspection to snap a photo of a frame, then enlarge to check for eggs & larvae—it’s easier than a magnifying glass.
- Put a queen excluder under your in-hive feeder to keep the bees from building burr comb in the channel leading to the food supply.
- In a queen-mailing cage—or ANY queen cage— protect the royal feet. Do not rub against the screen! (Why? See “Bee Biology: The Queen’s Feet” in this blog).