This time last year, we were all still shivering from one of the coldest springs on record with a biting easterly wind keeping even daytime temperatures well down in single figures.
Any queens that had started to lay in late February had promptly stopped leaving the hives broodless and with a rapidly ageing population of winter bees. Even in late April many colonies only had two to three frames of brood and many colonies did not survive at all.
Well, it could not be any more different this year. Indications are that colony survival rates are very good, with advanced brood nests and with the mild spring taking early advantage of willow, blackthorn and dandelion. As long as spring does not have a sting in the tail (no pun intended) things really do look set fair for a good season.
Drones are already appearing in the hives and so swarm preparations will soon follow, so be prepared and know what to do when queen cells start appearing. Swarm control will be taught in week four of the beginners course which any member can attend; an Artificial Swarm Guide is on the Information Guides pages of our website.
With a few exceptions varroa levels were low last year, one theory being that the extended broodless period in spring 2013 also knocked the varroa back (which of course needs brood to reproduce), every cloud has a silver lining. But I would advise caution and be on guard and keep a close eye on the varroa levels in your hives and treat accordingly. Regulations require beekeepers to keep a record of the purchase and treatment of any medicines applied to your hives, a medicines record form can be downloaded here.
If you are going to the Pembrokeshire or Teifiside auctions (3rd and 10th May), remember to sterilise any secondhand equipment, there are bargains to be had if you know what you are looking for!
Good luck for the season and may all of your swarms be lowdown!
Mike Davies. Training Officer.