have some fun with your bees

Beekeeper’s Calendar

March

The bees will start to find pollen in the month of March, urging them to start the process of returning to normal hive activities. The queen will start laying to almost full capacity as the month goes on and warmer weather allows. Make sure your hives have food, just because they are able to start finding some pollen does not mean there are any nectar sources quite yet, so they need sugar and they probably need it bad. March is a month where many beekeepers are tricked into thinking their hives have survived the winter, just to see them die out due to starvation. You can start feeding them sugar syrup, candy boards, extra honey frames (if you have any).
You may want to start thinking of feeding pollen, as the more pollen they bring in, the more comfortable the queen feels in laying as many eggs as she can. The gamble at this time of year when it comes to pollen feeding is that it will encourage the queen to lay eggs well outside of the cluster area and a cold snap could prevent them from being able to maintain a healthy temperature for the brood.
Get out there and open your hives, clean the dead-outs and feed the survivors.

April

The bees have returned to full activity, finding nectar and pollen in early spring blooms of Maple trees, Locust trees, Honeysuckle and quite a few other trees and bushes. Get into your hives and inspect the brood pattern, consider replacing the queen if she has not returned to laying a solid pattern. Invert your brood boxes, putting the empty lower box above the occupied one, this gives the queen a host of other cells to move UP (she always moves up when searching for more space to lay) to, allowing your colony to increase in population greatly.
By the later part of April, the nectar really starts to flow. Pull the feeders from the stronger hives and consider adding honey supers. Keep feeding weaker hives if they need a boost, but keep the supers off of the hives that are consuming sugar syrup, this keeps that sugar out of your honey.
Watch out for swarms in April, stronger hives may be to the point of swarming and if you don’t see it/catch it, you may lose up to 70% of the bees in that hive. Swarming can be a blessing as well, it is essentially a natural split, and can mean nothing but another hive in your apiary if you deal with it properly.
April is the month most bee packages are delivered. Make sure you feed as much as the package needs while it is getting built up.

May

The full nectar flow is underway and you can remove feeders from any hives that still have them. Stay on top of their population, making sure they have enough room to expand, thereby warding off any swarming. Keep an empty super on all hives that have more than one brood box, they want to pack honey away and all you need to do is make sure they have somewhere to store it. Keep an empty box with a cover and bottom board, or a nuc with frames and a lid so that if one of your hives does swarm, you have a place to put them in. You can consider putting out a swarm trap, an empty box, nuc or proprietary swarm trap set in a tree or on a line of woods. Many online supply stores sell swarm lure, but the general consensus is lemongrass oil works just as well. You can apply the oil to the top of a couple of frames or put the oil on a paper towel, put the towel in a loosely closed plastic bag and place the bag in the box. The oil imitates a pheromone the bees produce when alerting their sisters that they found a suitable place to start a new colony.

June

Much the same as May, the bees are interested in packing honey away. Keep adding supers when necessary. Check the queens laying pattern and replace her if necessary. Keep an eye out for swarming.

July

The nectar flow slows down during the month of July, you can consider removing your honey. If you remove your honey during July, keep the hive with empty space so that the remaining nectar sources can go to their production of Winter food. If mites are visible and you think them a problem, you can consider doing a powdered sugar shake, but only if the honey supers are off of the hive, you don’t want powdered sugar in your honey product. During your weekly or bi-weekly hive inspection, check to make sure there are honey-less cells in the brood chamber. Many hives may have packed honey in their brood area, limiting the production of the queen and eventually, the Winter bee population.

August

The nectar flow has essentially ended, although Goldenrod is on its way and that, depending on your location, may be a major nectar influx. Although the temperatures are still hot, you are still going to the beach and wearing shorts, the bees are thinking about Winter. Just as July, you need to make sure she has enough room to lay, what bees are produced now are the bees you will be relying on during the Winter. In my area we get a great honey flow just from the Goldenrod and Alfalfa during August, so I still have supers on but plan on removing them before the end of the month. Many people dislike the taste and smell of Goldenrod honey, so you may want to consider leaving it for the bees as over-winter food stores.

September

I wrote a blog about the importance of September for the beekeeping year. As in August they need to have room for eggs, check your queen’s production and pattern. Assess which hives need food and which are set, feed 2:1 sugar:water syrup if necessary to bring the weight up. Remove all supers and conduct a thorough inspection, removing empty boxes, cleaning the bottom board and putting them in their final Winter location. As the month draws on and the nights get colder, install mouse guards over the entrances. Make sure the bees have an upper entrance, putting that on now will allow them to glue it together with propolis, sealing it for winter.

October

The bees are switching to Winter mode now. They stay clustered for longer, usually only flying during the warmest parts of the day. Consider installing your Winter hive parts: moisture control, upper entrance, mouse guards, entrance reducer. Continue feeding if the hive does not have 50 or 60 pounds of honey stores. Feed with either 2:1 syrup, candy board or honey.

November

The bees are clustered for the winter, only flying when the temperature reaches 50 degrees or so. If the bees are still taking in fluid, you can feed the light hives. Buy and assemble your equipment for next year, the bees are on their own now.

December

The bees are enjoying the holidays in a cluster, eating nearby honey when the need arises but mostly they stay in their cluster for the month of December. This time of year I am wrought with excitement and anxiousness, hoping for their survival but without anything I can do to help them achieve it.

January

The bees are in a tight cluster for the whole month of January, eating nearby food and rotating the cluster for warmth distribution is most likely the extent of their activity. If the temperature rises to near 50 degrees, you may see bees flying around, they are taking cleansing flights since they do not go to the bathroom inside the hive. -During the month of January the things you need to do are few and simple. *-Make sure the entrances are cleared of snow so that they have air circulation and so that they can take their cleansing flights when the temperature allows. *- Keep an eye on the lids, making sure they are weighted down so that a strong winter wind gust doesn’t blow them off of the hive. I had this happen to me 3 years ago and what a sad sight that was, I will never make that mistake again. *- Order your bees, it may seem early but bee package suppliers are normally sold out when spring arrives.

February

On colder days the bees activity does not change much from January. If the days start to warm up, the queen may start to lay more eggs, a great thing if the temperature cooperates, allowing the cluster to maintain the proper temperature to keep the brood warm. Keep paying attention to the snow build-up in front of the hives. If you can get to the hives on a warmer (above 50 degrees) day, you can open the top of the hive and inspect their food stores. February and March are often times when the food starts running low and emergency feeding may be in order. Last year when I had to feed during the late parts of Winter, I poured dry sugar on top of the inner cover, as much as I could without having it cascade into the hive. A visit to the hive a couple of weeks after the introduction of the sugar, it was completely consumed and I repeated the process.