The bees in March

After a chilly start, yesterday grew into a surprisingly warm and sunny day. The bees were going crazy. Today has been a definite umbrella day, wet and windy. That’s British weather for you.

The pic below shows Rosemary’s bees zooming back home. Rows of bright crocuses were out in the nearby parks, so I expect they were finding pollen from them. The bees below don’t have much pollen to show, but others were bringing it in.

Bees flying in March

I found this bee hanging in the mouse guard. She looked recently dead.

Emma and I checked up on the fondant levels of both our hives. Surprisingly they hardly seem to have touched it, although both hives feel reasonably heavy still. Perhaps they are content with their honey stores. We also talked with some beginner beekeepers, who wanted to know the origin of the term ‘super’ and how the shook-swarm we’re going to be doing soon works, so we were nattering quite a while and missed the explanation for this magnificent hive below.

This is Cliff’s latest attempt at innovative top bar hive design. Cliff is the Ealing Association’s R&D department. He has exceptional carpentry skills and isn’t afraid to experiment with them.

John Chapple presiding over the hive. Cliff was too shy to pose with his creation.

John Chapple with Cliff's hive

John Chapple with Cliff's hive

A few flowers I found around the apiary…crocuses

…and hyacinths. Are hycainths any good for bees, does anyone know?

March hyacinths

We’re probably going to shook-swarm both hives in a couple of weeks time, fingers crossed that it goes well.

About Emily Scott

I am a UK beekeeper who has recently moved from London to windswept, wet Cornwall. I first started keeping bees in the Ealing Beekeepers Association’s local apiary in 2008, when I created this blog as a record for myself of my various beekeeping related disasters and - hopefully! - future successes.
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14 Responses to The bees in March

  1. I love the new top bar hive!
    According to the Honeybee Conservancy, bees like both crocus and hyacinth! 🙂


  2. theresagreen says:

    Hi Emily,
    It’s good to see your bees out and about again. I think at this time of year bees will take what’s on offer, but generally flowers with open faces are better for bees and flowers with trumpets or long tubes are difficult for bees to access as they have short tongues. Have you seen any of yours on the hyacinths?


    • Emily Heath says:

      Hi Theresa,

      It really was nice to see them flying properly again. I didn’t see any bees on the hyacinths, but then I was only walking past quickly and they were in a shady spot. I’ve heard conflicting reports about whether bees like daffodils. Some say honeybees avoid them as their pollen becomes toxic if stored for long.


  3. hencorner says:

    Ummm, is it just me, or does the top bar hive look a bit like a chicken coop???!!!

    Thinking about our iminent Shook Swarm and so pleased that Andy Pedley is coming to help 🙂


  4. Hobbit Queen says:

    Hi Emily,

    Love your blog! Being in the U. S. and a very, young beekeeper, would you explain what exactly is a “Shook Swarm”?
    It is good to have the bees out and about again! We have 70 degree weather here in the mountains of Virginia. Bring on spring!
    Thanks for sharing such good information and your pics are glorious.
    Hobbit Queen


    • Emily Heath says:

      Seeing the bees again feels so great. I love your blog too.

      A shook-swarm is something we do here to replace all the brood comb in a colony in one go. We shake all the bees off their old combs into a box full of new foundation and burn their old brood comb frames. This sounds harsh but we feed them sugar syrup and they quickly build out new comb. It’s a way of getting new, undiseased frames of comb and also works as an anti-varroa measure, because after overwintering on the adult bees most of the varroa mites will be in the brood cells at the moment.


      • Hobbit Queen says:

        Oh my! That is definitely different from what I had expected you to say. Hmmmm…will need to check into that. We were lucky, at least, I’m still keeping my fingers crossed. We didn’t see a large influx of those vermin. At least, our best count shows a small number on the grid board we have underneath the hives. Wednesday, the weather is supposed to be up in the 70s. Hobbit King and I will dig into the hives to see how the bees are fairing.

        Thanks for the compliment on my blog and for answering my question so quickly!
        Cheers, HQ


        • Emily Heath says:

          The shook-swarm is only recommended for strong colonies. For weaker colonies a more gradual comb change process, such as the Bailey comb exchange or just gradually removing a few combs annually, might be better (though doesn’t work for killing off varroa mites).

          Glad you haven’t got many mites in there. Hope the inspection goes well!


  5. karcuri13 says:

    That is one crazy top bar hive. How does it work exactly?


    • Emily Heath says:

      Unfortunately I missed the explanation. I saw that the triangular bits at the side weren’t attached. It looks like it might be a way to keep two colonies side by side in two brood boxes on the bottom with shared access to supers on the top!


  6. Are you feeding your bees? I have been feeding my bees sugar water for weeks until the weather stabilizes and there is enough flowers to feed from.


    • Emily Heath says:

      Sounds like you’re doing the right thing. We’re feeding them sugar syrup because we’ve started the Bailey comb exchange, which is a method of getting them to draw out new brood comb. Once they’ve drawn out a new set of combs we can get a super on, probably sometime in late April. Then we’ll stop feeding, so that they’re not storing sugar syrup in the super.


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