April is a busy month for honeybees and beekeepers. Even if cold, wet weather keeps the bees indoors some days, spring is inexorably here. When the bees can fly, there is plenty of forage for them. Warm, dry days allow access to millions of dandelions which yellow the meadows all month, and a hive full of bees, given access to this bonanza, can make 30lb of honey and lots of golden comb in a week or two.
Fruit blossom is another rich source of nectar, and bees’ services in pollinating and setting fruit and other crops make them valuable: as livestock they are trumped only by cattle and pigs. Yes, honeybees, often kept by amateurs, bring more money into the economy than, for example, chickens or sheep.
This month is not too early for the first swarms, as bees fly out from the hive to form a new colony. They hang up temporarily in a brown ball, while scouts investigate the surroundings to find a permanent home. Within a few hours the swarm will be tucked away out of sight. Their ideal place to live may unfortunately conflict with ours: a chimney, roof space or garden shed.
If you see a swarm in the open, perhaps hanging on a tree or the side of a building, report it to the West Dorset Beekeepers Association without delay and a friendly person in a bee suit will come and relieve you of it free of charge. Go to www.westdorsetbees.org.uk to find whom to contact in your town or village.