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With the continued mild weather persisting past winter, it is possible that some colonies may be getting low on food reserves. This will be particularly true in warmer areas of the UK where brood may have been reared throughout the winter. If you have not already done so, now is the time to go out and inspect your colonies. Below are a couple of pointers to consider.
• Information received from Regional Bee Inspectors suggests that in some areas, especially in the East of England; colonies in many apiaries are starting to become light.
• Stronger colonies have been rearing small amounts of brood throughout the mild winter, and currently many have at least 2-3 combs of sealed brood and one comb of open brood. With the current forecast suggesting a fairly settled period throughout the rest of the week, now would be a good time to get out to the apiary and see what levels of food your colonies have. Should the weather continue to stay mild and warm, a liquid sugar feed can be used in small quantities, not to overload them; a spring sugar solution of 1kg of sugar to 1300ml of warm water. However should the weather turn cold again, fondant should be switched when the bees stop taking the syrup down.
• Some colonies have had the opportunity to forage on ivy last autumn and so may be heavy, and the bees may be sitting on a lot of hard ivy honey. It is possible that with the milder weather they have been able to get out and gather water – but worth considering when thinking about how much food colonies have and whether they can access it.
• It is possible that over the winter, Varroa may have continued to breed, it is therefore important to monitor the natural drop of the mite. In extreme cases it may be necessary to think about a spring treatment to bring numbers down, particularly where no treatments have been used since late last summer.