As springtime unfolds, flowering gardens gradually start to buzz. Beekeepers eagerly await this moment, even if it is a time of abundant cares and concerns: How have the bees fared through the winter? Are they healthy? Do they have enough food? Is the queen bee alive and well? Are there many first hatchlings? How can I help my bees along? And many more questions... The bee hive is like a small world or a large family. It’s probably pretty evident, even to the non-beekeeper, that intrusions into family life are best kept to a minimum. So, how do you find that golden mean and help your bees welcome springtime in with an eagerness to begin working?
To the hives in plain T-shirts
Yes, yes, you read it right. And no, not so that they can sting you. A hive that is opened too frequently loses heat, and the bees struggle to maintain a stable temperature, which leads to increased risk of disease and destabilizes family live – definitely not to the benefit of the bees. Would you like it if you were constantly plagued by cold gusts of wind just when you’re beginning to move about and heating your home? So, it’s best to refrain from opening hives until you can approach them wearing just a T-shirt and no winter coat (when the average air temperature is ~15°C). This way you’ll not only keep your bees warm, you’ll also not disturb their rhythm of life.
Do not disturb or bother
Bees are really pedantic. You can help them out by clearing away the dead bees at the bottom of the hive and disinfecting it. That’s it. There’s no reason to stick your nose into the rest of their home, pull honeycomb out or establish your own order. A careless visit from you might mean that the bees will have to fix honeycomb cells and repair their home instead of dedicating their time to rearing the next generation, preparing for the nectar harvest or, even worse, raising a new queen bee because you’ve hurt the old one. If you really want to assess whether the bees have enough food, simply lift the hive up by its edges and evaluate its weight, comparing it with the other hives. If you come across a disproportionately light hive, feed your bees.
Food as medicine
As the old saying goes, prep your sleigh in spring, and your bee food in autumn. Before winter comes along, you have to take care of your bees’ winter food stores and not disturb their peace during the cold season. In the early spring, bees are best encouraged with some inverted sugar syrup. These supporting feeds should be provided every three days until the rapeseed fields begin to flower. This means about half a litre of syrup twice a week. We also recommend supporting your bees by providing them with protein-enriched bee candy. However, keep in mind that this bee candy can only be given to bees that have taken their first flights and expelled their waste. To bees that have not flown around and pooped, bee candy can be deadly – they will have diarrhoea and die. It's also worth knowing that bees that have already taken flight and begun to raise their hatchlings consume as much as 4 times more food.
Health, the greatest treasure
This applies to humans and bees alike. Disease can reduce bee productivity, the raising of hatchlings or even destroy entire colonies. Varroa mites are especially dangerous to bees and do a lot of damage to their immune systems. We can only be grateful that natural treatments for fighting parasites in the spring are available – we use BeeVital.
In the spring, when the bees begin to bring in pollen and the weather is warm enough, treat your bees with some BeeVital. Be sure to assess your mite count – this is a must.
Happy and productive bees are what beekeepers dream of and work toward. Just don’t forget the most important thing: while bees do need a little assistance, very frequent intrusions into the hive destabilise their family life and do more harm than good. So help them along, but trust your bees to survive.