In the most part of the country bees begin to liven up in their hives at the end of February or in the beginning of March. If the winter was cold and long the broodnest in the families will appear much later: at the end of March or in the beginning of April. This is the time when spring work begins on apiaries.
The primary task of a beekeeper is to examine cursorily bee families. If possible it is necessary that he should do it in the beginning or middle of March. The aim of examination is to state the presence of the queen in the family, arrangement of feed and its quantity. Hives are usually examined in sunny weather at a temperature no less that +8 C.
Frames with feed are put on both sides. The central part is filled with feed supplement, by putting a frame with crystallised honey on top or by opening cells with honey with the uncapping knife on the frames with breeding on the area of 2-3 dm2. In there is no honey then a beekeeper should place a mass of feed supplement (candy, lollipop, or sugar syrop - 300-400 gramm) above the centre of the brood. The earlier the examination is carried out the more chances starving bees have to survive recurrent frosts in early spring.
You can guess whether the queen is available before you open the nest. Abandoned bees make a lot of noise, crawl on comb frames, and in warm weather leave the bee entrance and crawl on the front part of a hive. The presence of the queen can be easily determined by examining the central frame of the broodnest. If there is a sealed broodnest it proves that the queen is in the family. If there is no broodnest or it is not sealed then the larvae should be examined carefully. It there is only one egg laid in the middle cell at the bottom, then there is the queen in the hive.
Sometimes the old queen dies after winter. If there is an unsealed broodnest, the family will grow a new queen, that isn't efficient in egg-laying. Such a queen can hatch in the first part of winter when the mother queen lays the first eggs. In such a family bees are calm but in the central part of the hive there is no brood and eggs. In this case all the frames should be examined closely and the queen must be found. If a beekeeper fails to find the queen then he puts combs with eggs from other families. In four –five days queen cells can appear that means that there is no queen in the family. If queen cells don't appear – the queen is in the family but it should be found and the reason for which the queen doesn't lay eggs should be determined.
A new queen with workers from the nucleus that has successfully survived winter is set into the abandoned family. If there are no such queens then the abandoned family is united with a normal one. At the end of April the deserted by the queen bees should be saved (by means of giving them brood) only in the case when drone brood has been already laid on the apiary. But such families can't be highly productive in the coming season.
In the case of bees' number decreasing good combs ( not used by bees, with little amount of honey) are taken out and put on the separating board those combs which are empty are taken away. Temperature condition in the reduced nest improves that makes favourable appearing of a large amount of brood in early spring period.
In the second part of April bees fly out nearly every day as early pollen-bearing plants begin to bloom. Bees' engagement in pollen-collecting activity leads to increase in the mother queen's oviposition. Being aware of this biological connection a beekeeper is able to regulate its development as early as at the end of winter. The best way to do it is by the use of stimulating feed supplement and by placing the hives out near the locations of pollen- and honey-bearing plants.
In the condition of bad weather or absence of blooming vegetation, bees are supported by feed supplement. If there is honey in the colony (6-7 kg and more) the first feed is made by uncapping sections of honey (approximately 1 dm2) from one side of a honeycomb to the side street. Frames with honey on the edge of the nest are uncapped first: bees will bring it to the brood in the centre.
It is very important that a beekeeper should determine the time to begin stimulating feeding. In south regions where bees can collect honey from white acacia feed is usually begun 65-70 days before its blooming. Determining the deadlines of stimulating feed supplement is extremely important for honey collecting, especially of the first honey collecting. If a beekeeper delays– bees won't be ready to use up the first honey collection, if a beekeeper begins early – they will develop before the honey collecting. Most bees begin to swarm before or during honey collecting. From the other side untimely feeding is connected with using up a large amount of feed supplement, especially in the regions where there is no constant supporting honey collection. Carrying out stimulating feeding other factors in the life of the bee family should be taken into account. The exact condition of any bee family and the necessary work the main spring revision establishes.
The main spring revision is subject to weather conditions: in most regions of the country it can be carried out at the end of March- in the beginning of April. The earlier it takes place the earlier a beekeeper will be able to take the necessary steps and render the timely assistance to bee families. During the spring revision the quantity and the arrangement of feed supply is determined (in kilograms), the number of bees in side streets and of brood. After that, optimal conditions for development of all the families are made: improving temperature condition, calculating the area of combs for oviposition, supplying with feed etc.
Improving the temperature conditions is attained by means of reducing of the nest ( removing of empty frames without brood outside the dividing board), reducing of side streets up to 6mm and consolidating (closing) of inter-frame space.
Determining of combs for laying eggs is crucial for bee families' development. In spring bees leave less space for the queen's laying eggs by carrying pollen into the hive than in autumn. Warm and quiet weather, abundant plant blooming are favourable for collecting pollen and bees can carry considerable amount of pollen within a few days and can block the queen's oviposition. In order to prevent it frames with pollen fermented by bees should be taken from prosperous families and empty combs of light brown colour are put instead. In weak families the central comb with the breed is replaced in such a way that the area with the breed is between free combs on the neighbouring frames. Such an arrangement conforms to the number of bees. If bees are few and they can't cover combs with the breed, frames are not replaced. Stepwise adding bees from prosperous families to weak ones is beneficial to the latter. Feed stores are an important prerequisite for active development in summer time. The more bees have feed stores, the better they develop with the sufficient number of combs for laying eggs. Optimal amount of feed before giving supporting feed supplement is usually 6-7 kilogram. This quantity is sufficient for the whole period of bee family development before they are provided with the food supplement.
In the conditions of feed shortage bees destroy the breed, sucking out the contents of grubs. The destroyed breed is taken away from the hive. If one finds pupae and larvae thrown out of the hive near the bee entrance and doesn't give a bee family feed supplement immediately, then the family will die of hunger in 2-3 days. If honey store is little than syrup can be given (1:1). But it's better to give bees honeycombs from last year's stock. Every beekeeper should have such frames figuring on 3-4 kilogram of honey on the family from the latest honey collection (ïàäåâûé can be given for spring development).
Without a strong queen with efficient let-laying potential of laying 2-3 thousand eggs daily, a prosperous bee family won't have formed not only by the first honey collection (from acacia), but also by the late honey collection (from sunflower). That's why a beekeeper should estimate the quality of queens in every family before spring and find out which of them should be superseded by the young ones. So he has to plan breeding of young bee queens on his own apiary or to buy them bee-breeding farms. Bee families' health tells first of all on their development. Such diseases as chalk brood, acarine disease and nosema disease (they have been already mentioned in our previous publications) should be of a special attention and care.
English translation © Irina Yelsukova