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May sees the flowering of many important bee plants. Blackthorn in the hedgerows, fruit blossom, dandelions and oilseed rape. All producing copious amounts of nectar and pollen. The bee hive explodes with activity. The queen is reaching the peak of her laying cycle. The colony is constantly expanding. Combs that have not been used before, are cleaned up and pressed into service, with little piles of wax debris appearing outside the hive entrance from the frantic cleaning activity. Second and third honey supers have been placed over the first, and these are now being filled with the surplus honey that the bees are making. It is the season of plenty and it is also the time when the swarming instinct is at its highest. A time for the beekeeper to be alert and aware of what is going on inside the hives.
1. In preparation for the summer have spare equipment such as: three supers per hive (one could be with foundation); for each pair of hives have a spare brood box with comb, floor and roof, and nucleus box with at least four combs.
2. If you have not yet marked the queen do it in May so you can find her if the hive prepares to swarm.
3. Find (by asking or reading) how to carry out a Bailey frame change or a Shook Swarm.
4. Place a nucleus hive out (with mainly foundation) as a bait hive for swarms. If you notice bees investigating the bait hive check your hives for queen cells as the bees may be looking for a new home prior to swarming.
5. Keep ahead of the bee’s requirements for honey storage by placing supers on. As soon as the super placed on in April is half full of bees, put another super on. From then on be guided by the weather, if good, place more supers on when the top super is half filled.
6. Check every 7 days for queen cells:
7. Make an artificial swarm, or take a nucleus to weaken a colony intent on swarming. See out ‘HOW TO’ guides here
8. If you collect a swarm of unknown origin check it for varroa and if possible, hive it away from your apiary. Treat it with Apiguard, After two weeks you can bring it back to the apiary.
9. Continue to keep records on every hive.
10. At the start of the month change the brood chamber for a clean one.
11. Scrape/brush wax from the excluder, and remove burr comb from the top of the frames.
12. Replace 4 frames in the brood chamber with frames of foundation every year.
13. As soon as the rape flowers fade and the yellow disappears take off all sealed honey and extract it immediately, otherwise the honey will go solid.