Another guest post from Kent Williams. For more about Kent and to view his post from last month, see his February post.
Hello again, and welcome to the March edition of the LBBA newsletter. Spring IS here – right?? This year reminds me a lot of a spring four or five years ago. I remember very well counting yet-to-be-hatched chicks, thinking the year would be a banner year for honey and bee production. Corn was planted early that year, during the third week of March, and some fields were nearly 6 inches tall the week of Easter. The weather was near perfect for an early bloom, and some colonies had already worked into the first honey super by Easter. The subsequent change of events has since become known locally as the “Easter freeze.” There is a saying in these parts that you are safe from frost when oak trees have leaves the size of a squirrel’s ear. Well, the year of the Easter freeze, oak leaves and squirrels’ ears got frostbit. All blooms were lost – along with the early corn and a big part of the wheat crop. Colonies were set back by about one brood cycle due to the loss of forage. There was enough brood build-up already in progress to lead to the consumption of any food that had been stored during the early blooming period, and some colonies could have benefitted from feeding. That particular year is a good example of a “boom” turning “bust.” Will this year be a repeat of the Easter freeze? If you know, you are missing your calling, and fortune, by keeping it to yourself. The best we can do as beekeepers is to prepare our colonies in a way that allows the bees to take full advantage of their environment. In the case of preparing for spring nectar flows, this amounts to making sure the main cluster is located in the bottom hive-body, the colony is healthy and has a productive queen, and giving the hive plenty of room for brood expansion (roughly the same total comb-area as two deep hive bodies for one colony) and honey production and storage. Keep in mind that for nectar to be cured – thus becoming honey – about three times the comb-area is required compared to the area needed to store the cured product. In other words – as the old beekeepers’ adage goes – over super in the spring. When preparing a hive for spring production, put two supers on the hive rather than one. As later inspections are made, when you see new wax being built at the bottom of the frames in the top honey super, add another super. If the top honey super is completely filled with capped honey, it is a sure bet that the colony could have produced at least one additional super, had the space been available. Should there be a repeat of the late freeze, make sure there is food, both protein and carbohydrates, available for your bees until the bloom resumes. A good philosophy to adopt is that of my late father-in-law, (a man that, like my own father, in the past 40 years has gone from being an abject idiot to being one of the greatest geniuses I have ever known). The philosophy advises to “hope for the best, while preparing for the worst.”