Springtime inspection – a few questions

Well – at last my bees seem busy and active having survived the miserable wet winter.

I have a couple of beginners questions

  1.  Should I remove the mouse guard now – will it inhibit swarming for example ?
  2. the bees are coming in today with bright green pollen – the colour of an Irish rugby shirt – what would this be from – I’ve never observed it before ?
  3. should I replace the top cloth after the winter ?
  4. i have 3 boxes on a warre hive & all have comb from last year.  Should I add a 4th box at the bottom without the cross bars – so there is an empty box at the bottom & therefore more room for the bees to move around ?

silly questions perhaps – but would appreciate the advice.  Cheers.  Jonny

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3 Responses to Springtime inspection – a few questions

  1. Paul says:

    Hi Jonny
    1. Yes, remove the mouse guard now. Partly this is so foragers don’t get pollen scraped off as they enter, but mainly it is because it makes it really difficult for undertaker bees to cart out bodies, and you don’t want those festering in the hive! Mouse guards don’t really make any difference to swarming – to suppress that (without resorting to queen excluders, wing clipping etc) the key thing is to ensure the bees do not feel crowded, that they have space to expand into. In a Warre hive, that means downwards into the next box.
    2. Green pollen could be Hazel, bluebells or quite a number of things! A Spring heather perhaps. Try looking at the pollen colour chart here – http://www.kentbee.com/stw/articles/pollen-colour-guide.shtml – thank you Kent beekeepers for that splendid chart. I think you will only be able to narrow it down by looking at what’s in bloom around you.
    3. No, don’t replace the top cloth unless they have eaten through it, which only a few colonies do. They will have sealed it with lots of nice disinfectant propolis and got it just how they want it.
    4. Don’t add a BARLESS bottom box – always have bars in the boxes or you will really kick yourself in about a year when you want to harvest or inspect the comb in that box. As to whether you should add a box at all, the Warre strategy is to remove boxes from the top each year to force the bees to build fresh comb below, so they do not re-use comb forever, but you may want to make a judgement on whether it is too early yet because they may need the stores inthe top box (but that is how you get “your” honey harvest so it is a tradeoff).

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    • jonnywoods says:

      Thanks Paul.
      Yes – the undertaker bees were getting stuck – so I’m glad I’ve cleared it – gross….
      Harvesting will be fun at some point in the summer. So the way it should work is that the bees store honey in the top box, and effectively each year box is added at the bottom & removed from the top ?
      J

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  2. Paul says:

    Hi Jon,

    harvesting is better done now: evaluate the hive to see if there is spare stores left from winter. If you leave it until later, they can eat the honey when you want to go out and forage for more. So now, and late autumn are the usual times to take excess honey as a crop.

    In general, yes, in a Warre hive the honey is stored in the top box and the bees move the nest (brood area) down, so you add a box at the bottom and take the top one.

    I’ll mail you with a bit more detail.

    Paul

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