Be sure your hives are prepared for cold and windy winter conditions. Provide a windbreak from cold winter winds.
Order queens and package bees for an early April delivery if you did not do so in December.
The first brood nest exam may take place in January if the temperature is at least 60 degrees, the sun is out, and very little wind. Make sure the exam is quick as possible. Check for honey, pollen, brood pattern, and number of bees.
Check hives for sufficient food supplies. This can be done by lifting the back of the hive box. If it is light, further examination is needed. A single medium frame holds approximately 3.5 lbs of honey and a deep holds 5 – 6 lbs of honey. A colony rearing brood will consume 10 lbs of food a week. Always feed a hive that is in danger of starving with 2:1 sugar water since hives with small food reserves will quickly starve to death. In a mild winter you should find about one frame of brood and at least 3 deep frames of honey.
Order, assemble, inventory, and repair woodenware and supplies. Clean old frames and hive boxes to be used in the spring.
Check hives for mites and treat as necessary.
Check stored supers for wax moth or mice damage. Add more PDB (Paradichlorobenzene) moth crystals if needed as it evaporates quickly on warm days. In freezing weather there will be no wax moth activity.
Activity increases for the beekeeper this month. Trees should be starting to bloom providing pollen. A healthy hive has bees flying on warm days and bringing in pollen. Pollen stores coming into the hive is a sign that brood rearing is taking place.
This month is a good time to combine weak colonies (i.e., fewer than 2 frames of bees).
Check hives early this month for adequate food supplies, to verify a queen-right hive and to look for the presence of disease. Be careful that you do not overly expose the brood to cold temperatures while examining the hives. Work bees on sunny days with the temperature near 60 degrees and little wind.
A medium (6-1/4”) frame holds 2-1/2 to 3 pounds of honey and a deep frame holds about 5 to 6 pounds of honey. There should be 6 to 10 or more frames of bees and 10 to 30+ pounds of honey (at least two deep frames). If needed, feed sugar syrup at a ratio of 2 parts sugar to 1 part water (by weight). A colony rearing brood consumes about 10 pounds of food per week.
Consider feeding pollen substitute to stimulate the queen into laying. Build up of brood should be timed so that it is not too early resulting in swarming, but large enough to maximize honey production during the April honey flow.
Check to see if hive boxes are still level after the winter with just a little tilt forward so they drain moisture.
Remove or enlarge entrance reducers near the end of the month if the weather warms. Do this sooner if the weather warms and bee activity indicates congestion at the hive entrance.
Move any hives while honey stores are low. Intact hives may be moved at night, or pick a cold day when the bees are inside. This is also a good time to find new locations for additional or current hives.
Treatment for varroa should be in place no later than February 1 to allow treatment time before the honey flow. Follow product directions exactly for the amount to be used and the time to leave in place.
Check stored supers and equipment to confirm all is in good condition.
A cool dry day is good for repainting hives.
If you have ordered package bees or are planning splits, have your equipment built, painted and ready to go.
Bees should be quite active. They should be bringing in pollen and searching for nectar on warm days. However, since the honey flow hasn’t started, bees need to be fed. The expanding population of bees can die of starvation in March!
On a calm and mild day (55 F or above), thoroughly inspect and clean your hives:
Check food stores.
Look for brood and a good brood pattern, which indicates the presence of and the quality of the queen.
Look for disease and parasites
If needed, scrape and clean the bottom board
Remove burr comb and excess propolis on frames and boxes
Add new frames to replace old or damaged ones.
Clean up any dead colonies.
Burn comb, tops, deeps, and bottom boards from any colony that died due to American foulbrood.
If the queen is in the top box of a double deep brood hive, reverse the boxes.
Remove swarm cells.
If the brood nest is congested, prevent swarming by providing plenty of room.
Add a super, but be sure to remove any medication before doing so.
If you used extender patties, they may be left on the hive.
Open entrance reducers.
Start making splits using the new queens that you ordered last autumn.
Combine weak hives.
March is the time that you want the most brood being developed. Eggs laid in March produce the bees that bring in nectar next month when the honey flow starts.
Follow IPM methods of any treatments than may be needed for pests or diseases.
Carefully check stored supers for wax moths. Keep moth crystals in stored supers.
Plan to have supers on by early April. Supers that have been stored with moth crystals should be aired for three days to one week before installing to eliminate the paradichlorobenzene odor.
April is the start of honey flow. It is also when queens and package bees arrive.
If you ordered packages of bees or queens, make a five-frame nuc. Install queens and package bees upon arrival. Alternately, make nucs from strong colonies—the earlier in the month the better. To make a nuc, remove two frames of brood and bees and one frame of pollen and honey from a strong colony. Place the two frames in the middle of a five frame nuc box and add two frames of foundation at each outside wall.
You may substitute a ten-frame brood box for a nuc box, keeping brood in the middle surrounded by honey and pollen. Place the empty frames of foundation on each side. Introduce the new queen. Feed with sugar water at a ratio of two parts sugar to one part water when the bees are drawing comb.
Do not disturb brood any more than necessary in April.
To prevent swarms, make sure brood is not overcrowded. There must be plenty of empty cells for egg laying. Check for and remove swarm cells.
Place swarm traps around your property.
Watch food stores carefully. Maintain at least two frames of honey for each frame of brood in the hive body. If there is not enough honey, feed sugar water at a ratio of one part sugar to one part water (this stimulates brood rearing better). Do not feed sugar water when honey supers have drawn comb, or bees will make “sugar honey.”
Have supers ready to install as the nectar flow increases. Have one empty super on the hive at all times during honey flow OR have one empty super on hand and ready for immediate installation on the hive at all times during honey flow.
Watch honey supers closely. When bees are working on six to eight frames, it is time to add another super. Give bees enough space so that they don’t try to store nectar in the brood box.
Most medication cannot be used in a hive which has frames in it which will be used for harvesting honey.
The honey flow continues and chances of swarming continue. Be sure there is enough room for egg laying, especially below the queen excluder if one is used. Check for swarm cells.
Check supers weekly. Do not wait until one is full of honey before adding another.
If bees are making honey, leave the brood box alone.
No medicating this month.
New colonies can still be started in May. Package bees might still be available.
Continue to feed package bees and nucs. Move nucs into full size hives. If your bee yard has both established colonies and nucs or packages, use entrance reducers to prevent robbing.
Plan ahead and be sure to have the necessary supplies and containers for extracting honey. Order containers and labels as necessary for your honey crop.
Some supers may already be full of honey. Honey may be extracted from these supers and the empty frames can be returned to the hive to be refilled.
Check swarm traps for free bees.
The honey flow begins winding down by June. The main honey flow will end in June or the first part of July. The honey harvest can begin in June as soon as you have frames of honey that are at least 3/4 capped. Plan to harvest honey when the weather is dry and warm.
There are several methods for removing full supers from hives:
Use a fume board to chase bees from supers. Fume boards work best in very hot weather.
Use a bee escape board beneath supers. This method requires more than one trip to the bee yard to remove supers.
Brush bees from the combs one comb at a time. This is a time consuming method and can anger bees.
Remove supers from hives and blow bees out with a “bee blower”.
Smoke bees from supers.
New colonies can still be started in the month of June, but they will need to be fed more than those started in April because the major honey flow is normally over.
Honey extraction should be in full swing provided the honey flow was good.
After extracting, put wet supers back on the hives for the bees to clean any remaining honey.
Freeze empty frames of comb for several days to kill wax moth larvae before storing. Store empty supers and frames with empty comb in a plastic garbage bag. Pour six tablespoons of paradichlorobenzene (PDB) moth crystals (NOT MOTHBALLS) onto a paper plate and place on top of the frames (PDB can be purchased at most hardware stores). Caution! Be sure to only use paradichlorobenzene moth crystals and not moth balls. Naphthalene moth balls will contaminate the wax and kill your bees when the supers are put back into the hive. Seal the plastic bag tightly. The moth crystals will evaporate over time so check at least monthly to see if they need to be replenished. If the crystals are gone, so is the protection from the moths.
Or place a super on layers of newspaper and stack two (2) more supers on top of it. On the3rd super place a paper plate and pour six (6) tablespoons of paradichlorobenzene (PDB) moth crystals on it. Continue stacking supers and moth crystals in this manner. When finished stacking the supers, cover the very top super with a hive cover over the moth crystals and newspaper. Make sure there are no cracks between hive bodies for moths to enter.
Maintain a consistent water source. Bees need water to cool hives during hot weather. Check hives to be sure that bees have plenty of honey. If needed, start feeding sugar water (simple syrup) or high fructose corn syrup.
Consider shading hives from direct full sun. Provide hive ventilation with screened inner covers or prop the telescoping lid open a bit.
Examine hives for varroa mites. Mite load will be increasing.
Finish extracting honey in the first part of August. Fall flowers do not usually make good tasting honey. So, leave fall honey for the bees.
Melt wax cappings from your extracting. You may freeze cappings for melting at a later date since that will destroy any wax moth larvae that may be present. You can leave wet cappings exposed for foraging bees to clean before processing the wax, but donʼt attract wax moths by leaving cappings exposed for more than three days.
Return wet frames to the supers on the hives for the bees to clean.
Store cleaned supers in a cool and dry area. Store them with moth crystals as mentioned in the July tips. Check for any cracks that would allow wax moth entry – tape them up if questionable. Check the stack monthly to determine if more moth crystals are needed. Once the crystals have evaporated, the protection is gone. Keep the stack airtight.
August is the time to treat for varroa. You need strong brood to go through the winter. Varroa mite indication can be from using sticky boards, powdered sugar method, or checking drone larvae. For an accurate count use an alcohol wash – if the varroa count is 5 per 100 bees, treat immediately.
Check the strength of each colony, as a weak colony can become a harbor for wax moths or small hive beetles (SHB). Combine colonies if there are weak ones.
Keep the bee yard clean. Help prevent SHB by removing burr comb from the yard.
Provide a consistent supply of water in this hot dry month. Keep hives well ventilated.
If there are not at least two full frames of honey in the brood box, start feeding sugar water. Bees can still starve in August.
Consider re-queening in the fall for a healthy hive entering the winter.
Finish any extracting that has not been completed. Store cleaned supers carefully for the winter.
Complete melting any wax cappings.
Check and treat for varroa mites. Make decisions about medicating – supers should not be on hives.
Most years there is a short fall honey flow from goldenrod and asters. Strong hives will store a surplus.
A good five (5) frame nuc made during the first week of September will overwinter nicely and probably make a crop of honey in the spring.
Examine hives carefully. Failing queens can be replaced now.
Weak hives can be combined with strong hives.
Continue to supply water.
Continue to feed colonies or nucs if necessary.
Check for varroa and treat if needed. Be sure to make a mite check both before and after treating your bees.
Complete medicating hives this month.
Check honey supply. If fewer than two frames of honey in the brood box, feed two parts sugar to one part of water. Fall pollen and nectar should be available until frost.
Remove queen excluders so bees can cluster as temperatures drop.
Place entrance reducers on your hives.
Combine weak hives to create strong hives to survive winter and fight SHB (small hive beetle).
Keep your bee yard clean. Do not throw burr comb on ground. It attracts SHB.
Make sure the hives are tilted a bit so fall rains will run out of the hives.
Check stored supers to assure that moth crystals have not evaporated. Add
more if needed.
Plan for next year. Order equipment now so assembling and painting can be done over winter.
Plan your order for queens, nucs or packages for next spring.
Install entrance reducers to prevent robbing.
Remove any queen excluders. Push bees down to one or two deeps or a deep and medium super for the winter cluster.
Consider stopping cold wind blowing directly into the hive entrance or bottom, but leave screen bottom boards on.
Treat for mites if necessary. If you use a fumigating product, slide a piece of plywood or plastic under the screen bottom board to seal off the screen during the treatment. Follow directions printed on the product package. Some products work best when the hive is broodless.
Check honey stores at least once a month, and record seams of bees and frames of honey. Bees need a minimum of two full frames of honey in the brood box and/or a medium super half full (consider scratching open some capped honey in the super).
At lease lift the back of the hive. If it feels light, feed sugar syrup.
Every hive should have one or two empty frames nearest to the outside walls. When the temperature falls below 57F, the bees will begin to cluster in the center of the hive to stay warm. Honey near the outside wall or too far up is unlikely to be used by the bees in cold weather, and the bees could actually starve even though they have honey in the hive. Stores may be distributed between hives if prudent.
Assess colony strength. If a colony is not strong, kill the queen and combine that colony with another hive to assure that bees survive the winter. (Take your losses now instead of waiting to late winter).
Clean frames. Replace old dark comb (3 to 5 year rotation).
Assemble and paint new hive bodies. Assemble new frames.
Check stored frames with drawn comb to make sure moth crystals (paradichlorobenzene) to protect against wax moths has not evaporated.
Place orders for spring queens, nucs, or packages.
Don’t disturb bees, but check to make sure that bees have enough honey stores and feed if necessary. At lease lift the back of the hive. If it feels light, feed sugar syrup.
Check stored frames with drawn comb to make sure moth crystals (paradichlorobenzene) to protect against wax moths has not evaporated. Assemble and paint new hive bodies. Assemble new frames.
Clean away old drones ejected from the hive.