A Strange Spring…
It has been a very strange Spring. The southeast was running about 3-4 weeks ahead before a cold snap put on the brakes while that same cold front brought a blizzard to the northeast. The west coast has been unseasonably cool and wet. One constant seems to be that the colonies which have made it this far are looking very strong and healthy – and that has me very nervous!
This type of situation can be a perfect storm. First, a good strong colony will brood up early and heavily. Given the timing of the bloom being highly variable (i.e., starting, stopping, and then starting again) I am concerned about the nectar flow which is typically strong this time of year. Personally, I will be monitoring the resources in my hives. Several years ago we had beekeepers telling us stories of starving colonies in May due to the weather. I don’t want a repeat.
Second, if the strong colonies have ample resources, perhaps the best thing that can happen is for them to swarm. I know you might be thinking that a swarm is not a good thing; however, it breaks the brood cycle which will delay the growth of the Varroa population. If colonies don’t swarm we could be looking at dangerous levels of Varroa very early in the season and colonies succumbing to the effects. You can certainly simulate a swarm by making a split into a NUC which then provides an nice resource for other colonies and a queen should you need it later. If you don’t want to split your colonies perhaps treat them with MiteAway Quick Strips before it gets too hot.
We are off to an atypical year. The takeaway, be attentive, don’t take anything for granted, and pay attention to the Varroa. Just because you look at a bee don’t see the pesky mite doesn’t mean you don’t have them. You must test!