May is a busy and critical month for beekeepers in our area. New packages, “nucs,” and queens ordered for the spring arrive, cherry and apple trees start the month in glorious bloom, and the rainbow of floral color expands daily in our late spring gardens and meadows.
For the bees, colony growth is still rapid and the need for nectar and pollen is high in both new and overwintered hives. Colonies require many foragers to take advantage of the wealth of food resources offered daily in the surrounding landscape….whenever the capricious weather allows them to fly.
Some hives might be completely full of bees and ready to swarm by this month, while others are still recovering from winter. Beekeepers should add honey supers to their full hives at this time.
For the beekeeper, a few May tips:
- Wait for a warm day to do a full inspection. Meanwhile, you can tell a lot about what is happening inside the hive by carefully observing your bees from outside as they come and go through the day.
- Use colored thumbtacks for marking frames: one color to distinguish those holding mostly pollen, another color for mostly honey, and a third for those that need attention at the next inspection, etc.
- If any frame shows bulges in the comb after springtime sugar-syrup feeding, use a serrated knife to sculpt the comb FLAT.
- During inspections, use an empty nuc to hold frames with the queen or queen cells while you check the rest of the frames in the hive box.
- During May inspections, hold frames over the open hive box so that any dripping nectar falls back into the hive and not onto the ground, where it might incite robbing by other bees or wasps.
My 25-year-old smoker had just not been working all that well for a couple of years. It is an older style from Mann Lake, and the bellows assembly is still available as a separate unit….so I...