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Spring is tricky time for bees

By North Devon Journal  |  Posted: April 17, 2014

STOCKED UP:  A bee leaving a crocus with pollen in its rear leg pollen basket.

STOCKED UP: A bee leaving a crocus with pollen in its rear leg pollen basket.

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SUNSHINE and dryer weather might look perfect for wildlife, but nevertheless the season presents difficulties for our bee population, as we discover in this latest report from North Devon Beekeeper's association chairman, Jack Mummery.

He writes: "Spring is my favourite season with its beautiful selection of spring flowers and unfurling leaves, but this season can be problematic for honey bees.

"Following a relatively mild winter and a good spell of weather at the close of March, bee numbers will have increased vigorously.

"As I write this in early April the weather has changed and low pressure dominates, bringing rain and cool temperatures so the poor bees won't know what is going on.

"March and early April are dangerous times for bee colonies as the colony size will be rapidly expanding, eating stored food and using it to feed young larvae, whereas there is very little energy-giving nectar available from flowers for bees to forage.

"One consolation is the amount of pollen available which is a very important and only source of protein that bees consume and store for future use.

"This year hazel catkins and pussy willow seem to be in abundance, both of which are important sources of pollen.

"I have a feeling that all flowers, both garden and wild, are more abundant this spring then previous years.

"If the weather picks up then some colonies will be looking to reproduce themselves in late April and through to July.

"This is achieved by swarming, so responsible beekeepers will be regularly checking their colonies for signs of swarming and will take action to manage it.

"Around half the colony number will leave with a prime, or first, swarm and more smaller swarms, or casts, might ensue from the depleted colony if allowed, resulting in a heavily depleted workforce with only a minimal chance of a decent honey crop."

Next week Jack will describe how disease can strike the hives and how the association can help all North Devon's beekeepers.

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