Readers will most likely be aware of the fact that an Asian hornet was discovered in Dublin recently. Beekeepers are well aware of this hornet and acutely vigilant for it.

These hornets may arrive into the country as a mated queen, attached to imports, possibly items such as wood.

They pose huge problems for beekeepers

Their queens hibernate in woodpiles, crevices, tree bark or any other hidden areas. Their nests are generally made high up in trees but could also be anywhere, such as, sheds, bird boxes or the like.

They pose huge problems for beekeepers, should they become established, since they can wipe out a substantial hive of bees in one day. They literally kill the bees and take them to use them as a protein source.

Inform yourself

There are many pictures on the internet so you can easily identify this hornet. The scientific name is Vespa velutina nigrithorax. It has a body length of close on 30mm.

They are dangerous and so must be avoided

The sting is long and can penetrate deep. It has an orange face and the bottom half of the legs are yellow. There is an orange to yellow band on the tip of the abdomen.

They are dangerous and so must be avoided. It is vital that if you find or sight one of these hornets, even if it’s only suspected, that you report it to the Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine.

Natural weather forecasters

The spring was uphill all the way for us beekeepers and for farming in general. Beekeeping has been difficult, with colonies slow to expand the brood-nest. First inspections were difficult to plan owing to cool temperatures.

A good nectar supply did come from the dandelion but the flowering period seemed shorter this year. An incoming nectar supply combined with increasing daily temperatures are perquisites for the expansion of the brood-nest. One always has the main crop in mind. Calculating when we should have our bees at maximum strength is always to the fore.

Nature has instilled in them the ability to move when it is time to do so

When bees are not doing what we want or what we think they should be doing, it is perhaps that they are better at weather forecasting than us.

Nature has instilled in them the ability to move when it is time to do so. Looking at colonies a couple of weeks back, I thought they are really struggling and within two weeks they were bouncing out of it.

Hopefully the summer will materialise. We have plenty of water in the soil after all the heavy rain so plants should be well set-up for good nectar yields when they come into bloom.

If the oak is out before the ash, we are in for a splash, if the ash is out before the oak, we are in for a soak

I am hedging a bet that we will have a good summer on the basis of a saying, regularly imparted by my late mother, which went as follows: “If the oak is out before the ash, we are in for a splash, if the ash is out before the oak, we are in for a soak.”

I couldn’t keep my eyes off both these trees as the leaves were appearing to see which one was first. It turns out that the oak was in leaf before the ash, so that is a good omen.

Spring-flowering oilseed rape held a mixed bag for bees, some good days and some were a wash out. It is often cold and wet for this crop. One thing for sure is that it brightens up the countryside with its fantastic colour.

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