The Beekeeper’s Year
Here are some tips for your beekeeping throughout the year. New beekeepers in particular may find them useful as they provide suggestions about the things to be doing and looking out for at different times of the year. They are not set in stone, purely a rough guide!
Week 1 – Treat hives with Oxalic Acid. (Come along to our Association Apiary on Saturday 7th January for a demonstration on how to do this, followed by a barbeque.)
Look out for winter sales of beekeeping equipment
Week 2 – Heft hives for stores. If light put on ‘Fondabee’, or an equivalent product.
Isolation starvation is a possibility until pollen and nectar is available again in March or April.
Small colonies are also more likely to starve.
Bees may have difficulty accessing stores that are not immediately next to them because it requires them to move out of their cluster formation.
Heft your hives throughout the year and at the start of the winter to get a feel for what a well fed colony feels like in weight. This is a skill that improves with experience...To survive Winter a colony will need at least 18kg/40 lb of stores or 8 solidly filled out brood frames.
If in any doubt, then fees your bees, they can’t be overfed and it is certainly preferable to finding them starved and dead in March!
If weather permits, frames of stores can be quickly repositioned to either side of the cluster allowing the bees easier access to it.
Syrup should not be left on the hive over-winter as it can ferment, giving the bees diarrhoea.
Dry feed with Fondabee or soft fondant candy. It can be left on the hive for a long time without serious deterioration and the bees can use it, as and when they want. Place it in a shallow plastic container and pop it upside-down over a feed hole in the crown board above the colony cluster. It does require that the bees to have access to a water source close-by the hive.
Make sure you have removed your queen excluders!
Week 3 – Check food.
Week 4 – Check food and get ahead with winter cleaning!
Before oxalic treatment, remove varroa catchment boards, wash and clean using boiling water, washing soda and a little fairy liquid. Use gloves and a hand brush and scrub clean. Allow to dry.
Clean all tools, including the smoker. Wash all clothing using some washing soda in the machine as it will help to remove propolis etc.
On a good day, take out all spare hives from the garage or shed. Remove frames and check for mouse or wax moth damage. With a blow torch sterilise all brood boxes, supers, floors, crown boards, queen excluders and lids. Make sure they are all in good condition. Weatherproof if necessary.
Check all brood and super frames. Remove all discoloured or mouldy wax and wash these frames. Use, where possible, a Burco boiler or similar and bring water to a rolling boil. Add 1kg washing soda, keep on a rolling boil and dunk the frames in the water. Wear heavy, protective gloves whilst doing this! Turn the frames over and dunk again. By now all wax and propolis should be removed from the frames.
Remember – Clean wax reduces the risk of AFB, EFB and a host of other diseases. Clean super frames and wax improves the quality and flavour of the honey. If possible, in April replace the winter brood boxes with newly cleaned ones.
• Week 1 – Check food.
• Week 2 – Start assembling frames. Always have a surplus at the ready to unexpectedly make up a new hives and change/ replace old frames and wax. it is recommending not to fit the foundation til needed to keep the wax fresh and flat.
• Week 3 – Check food. (If the weather is warming up the queen will be getting ready to lay and workers will be cleaning the cells.)
• Week 4 – Check food.
Make Asian Hornet traps
Queens will be increasing their laying rate and more brood is being raised. All this increased activity means more energy is being used and ample stores are required for the colony to thrive.
Continue to heft hives to ensure colonies have enough food!
• Week 1 – Remove the mouseguards.
• Week 2 – Some beekeepers like to feed a weak syrup and/ or feed them pollen patties. This gives your bees a good start especially if natural pollen forage is not yet ready. It may also stimulate the queen to begin laying if she isn't in laying flow already .
• Week 3 – Change or clean the floors. Draw parallel lines on your correx floors 2" apart to help with counting and monitoring varroa mite drop.
• Week 4 – Plan your inspection record system for the coming year!
Colonies should only be inspected when the temp is above 14 degrees or on a warm sunny afternoon. It should be a swift inspection to avoid chilling any brood.
On warm days you should see lots of activity about the hive. Workers bringing in pollen indicates that the queen is laying, that there are larvae being fed and brood rearing is generally in full swing!
Continue to heft hives to ensure colonies have enough food, particularly if spring has been late.
Weekly inspections could commence, weather permitting.
• Week 2 - weekly inspection weather permitting.
Prepare a nucleus / nuclei or spare hives in preparation for swarm control.
• Week 3 - plan ahead for apiary expansion / queen rearing/ replacement and gather the necessary equipment that you will need.
Attend the association apiary on Saturday morning and help out with inspections.
Ask to be added to the whatsapp group for regular updates!
Hang up your Asian Hornet Traps.
Make sure your bees have a water source. If not, then you will have to provide one.
• Week 3 – Check stores.
• Week 1 wasps are notorious nuisance in August and can destroy a small or weak colony. Reduce entrances to help guard bees protect the entrance.