May flowers are popping up everywhere and your hives are busy. The bee population is expanding rapidly and there’s plenty to do for every member of the hive, plus the avid beekeeper.
Now the activity really starts hopping. Be prepared; May is a major swarming month. Overwintered hives may reach 80% of their full strength by mid-May. The Queen will be approaching her maximum rate of egg laying and new hives will be building comb as fast as they can. Established hives will be busy collecting nectar and pollen, which will now be abundant and coming into the hive fast.
Beekeeping and Spring Cleaning
If you weren’t able to get to it last month, a good spring cleaning is needed, as soon as possible. Clean the bottom board, reverse and inspect the brood boxes. Clean up burr comb and more.
Look for queen activity and evaluate brood pattern. Continue feeding until they stop taking it or until you install honey supers. This is especially important for new hives as they are building comb and raising brood with every available resource.
Watch for swarming
Be aware of swarm indicators and control protocols. For existing hives, it’s critical that you monitor and add supers as needed; otherwise, your hive may swarm if it’s strong and growing. When inspecting, look for swarm cells on the bottom of frames. Remove them if you can, but your best option is to monitor and add supers before they feel congested and start making swarm preparations.
If the hive is very congested, you can also consider some form of checker boarding. At the same time, check the ventilation. Inadequate ventilation (too hot) can lead to swarming as well.
Start checking for pests and diseases
Before putting on honey supers, start monitoring for Varroa mites and treat (if needed). With some treatments – such as Mite Away Quick Strips – it’s fine to have honey supers in place when treating. Non-chemical IPM methods can be used anytime. Consider drone frames and powdered sugar dusting (If using drone frames, don’t forget to remove and freeze them every 21 days or else you will greatly increase your varroa mite population).
If you treat for AFB, EFB, and Nosema, follow the instructions carefully and have treatments completed before installing honey supers (per product instructions). Newly established hives probably will not need any treatments during the first spring.
Add hive bodies
Be prepared to add additional hive bodies (if necessary) when 80% of frames are capped. Check new hives every week to 10 days to ensure that the queen is laying and you have good a brood pattern. Even new packages should have the second brood box on by the end of the month.
Keep your veil tight, your smoker lit, and your hive tool handy. It’s just good beekeeping!
May Beekeeping To-Do Checklist
Estimated time needed: 4–5 hours*
*Time estimates do not include equipment repair and cleaning or honey extraction.
Test and treat (if needed) for Varroa mites. Read labels carefully and don't contaminate your honey crop.
Feed 1 gallon of Fat Bee Liquid Feed every 10 days
Feed 1–2 lbs of Fat Bee Pollen Supplement every 10 days
Check Queen for brood pattern
Check bee hive for health
Provide a fresh water supply (daily)
Apply second treatment of Salvation Salve
Attend your local bee club meetings or workshops
Flowers Bees Love in Spring
Bloom times vary depending on the variety, seasonal weather and elevation.
- Bleeding Hearts
- False Indigo & Wild Indigo
- Goat's Beard
- Jacob's Ladder
- Poppy (California Orange)
- Poppy (Shirley & Mix Colors)
- Prairie Smoke
- Waterleaf (Flower & Borage Herb)
- Wild Geranium
- Wild Onion & Wild Garlic (Flower & Edible Root)
- Honeysuckle (Vine or Shrub)
- Redtwig Dogwood
Other Beekeeping Considerations
Weather is the ultimate calendar when taking care of bees. Depending on the weather and your bee type, the time frame for activities should be adjusted earlier or later as necessary. You will have more success adapting to the bee’s schedule, rather than them adapting to yours.
Beekeepers are many and varied; some choose a hands off approach, while some are very hands on. Some choose to medicate and others are using other Integrated Pest Management (IPM) methods which do not include medication. Whatever your preference, you can and should adapt this calendar to fit your needs.
Thank you for keeping bees, and let us know if you have any questions regarding your hive. We’re always happy to help.
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