Seasonal Bee Management

February is hopefully the month when the weather will break and give us a day to check the food stores on the hives. If you find no brood it can be a good time to treat for mites. Make sure there is adequate food stores as brood rearing will ramp up. Candy boards, or the dry sugar method can save colonies if they have nothing. If it is late in the month a spring patty would be a good choice. February 14, 2016 was a terribly cold day. I’m sure we lost some bees and brood from this cold snap.

March should have you preparing all of your goals for your apiary this year. You have caught up on reading bee journals, books, and magazines. Now is the time to put your game plan on paper and make sure you have enough equipment on hand to make those goals a reality. Get bees and equipment on order if you haven’t already done so. Sign up for some conferences and trainings.

If it is warm enough that the bees are flying it is a good time to open the hives and make sure they have enough to eat. Hopefully you will find they still have some of their winter patty and candy board left. March is the month brood production will start and bees will need to eat more to warm the hive. This is likely why colonies will make it through the cold winter only to starve in March. Make sure you are feeding your bees if they need it.

In April, you want to monitor the weather and make sure the bees have adequate food. Here in Upstate NY, cold and rain may keep the bees from flying, but the are using energy quickly raising brood, so keep feeding them if needed.  Also depending on weather, there may not be adequate forage, so pay attention to what is going on in your hives until the dry, warmer weather  is regular.  Start swarm control by splitting large colonies. Reverse the brood boxes if needed to reduce crowding.  Watch your hives for the construction of swarm cells on the bottom of the frames. You can remove these if you see eggs in the colony- you wouldn’t want to remove these cells if the hive was queenless!  You can remove these cells and use them to in another hive, or even a new split. April is a good time to do a spring mite count with a sugar shake or alcohol wash.  has simple instructions to use these important tools.

May will have you checking again to make sure your bees have enough room. Does your colony need extra brood chambers? Check or they will put brood where ever there is room.  Extra comb will stimulate them to forage more, and that is good for honey production! NY has great forage in May including flowers and trees. May is also a good time to try raising your own queens- read up on it now. You should also be thinking about swarming- the bees are! A long time local beekeeper told me last week that he thinks it is going to be a “swarmy” year. I hope not! We already have noticed swarm cells in our hives. We are going to make splits NOW, while we still have bees.  Remember to go through your hive carefully during swarm season. Make sure there are eggs present before cutting out the swarm cells, or you could leave your hive queenless. Are there fewer bees in the colony? They may have already swarmed. All of our trees and perennials have not yet bloomed (May 12th) yet the bees are filling supers with nectar. It is so awesome to see!

June is THE month when the honey flow really starts. The clover starts to really come on strong usually mid to late June and the bees are quickly filling supers, so make sure to check frequently and make sure they have plenty of room to store the nectar. We have made a couple more splits as our grafted queen cells are ready.

July is a good month for a honey harvest as the clover is winding up. It is also a good month for a mite count/ treatment. Remember to choose a product that takes into account the brood and  honey supers if you have them on.

August is a big month for the bees. They are starting to make the bees that will go through the winter. Make sure they are bringing in a good amount of pollen and nectar. Check your hives- if you have drought in your area you may need to supplement with pollen substitute and syrup to make sure your bees have nutrition available. Also, this is a month in our area where the yellow jacket wasps come out and the robbing begins from them as well as hungry honey bees. Reduce your entrances if needed. Are your mite counts still low?

September is the month where the bees must be ready for winter. You need to make sure they have enough stores in their 2 deep boxes or 3 medium boxes. Combine week colonies to ensure winter survival. Make sure entrances are reduced. Keep feeding if colonies are light to ensure they have enough food stored to make it through winter. What are your mite counts?

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