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Monthly Beekeeping Guide: Bee Activity and Beekeeper To-Dos

Monthly Beekeeping Guide: Bee Activity and Beekeeper To-Dos

From investing in a new hobby to expanding the self-sufficiency of your homestead, beekeeping can be an enjoyable and rewarding experience for experts and beginners alike. No matter your beekeeping goals, caring for the pint-sized pollinators in your apiary is a must for productive and healthy hives.

Give your bees the help they need by understanding specific activities and monthly to-dos that will keep each hive busy and buzzing.

Read >> January Beekeeping Guide

Read >> February Beekeeping Guide

Read >> March Beekeeping Guide

Read >> April Beekeeping Guide

Read >> May Beekeeping Guide

Read >> June Beekeeping Guide

Read >> July Beekeeping Guide

Read >> August Beekeeping Guide

Read >> September Beekeeping Guide

Read >> October Beekeeping Guide

Read >> November Beekeeping Guide

Read >> December Beekeeping Guide

 


January Beekeeping Guide

January is a slow month for the beekeeper and the bees. The bees really aren't doing much this month other than keeping warm and staying alive. The beekeeper, however, has certain tasks that will need attention.

Bee Activity

There's little bee activity in January. The queen is surrounded by thousands of her workers in a tight cluster. The cluster will move around when temperatures are above 40°F, but when they do move, they all move together. They’ll go to a new area of the hive with honey stores or to take cleansing flights. The cluster may cover 4–8 frames from top to bottom.

The bees may consume 1 to 2 pounds of honey per day to maintain the hive's temperature. Many bees die during the winter, just from old age. You’ll notice more dead bees around your hives, but this is normal.

Beekeeping To-Dos

Little work is required from you at the hives. In case of snow, make certain the entrance to the hive is cleared to allow for proper ventilation. The hive isn’t normally opened in January. The bees are just doing their thing. In rare cases, when their food supply is feared to be low going into winter, you may want to take advantage of a nice day to peek inside. Make sure it’s a day with no wind or when the bees are taking cleansing flights.

Don’t remove any frames, just look under the cover and determine the cluster position and size. The bees should be loosely clustered, and during this month, they may appear in the upper part of the hive. Look for sealed honey stores. If they seem low or absent, you may want to consider an emergency feeding.

If you begin emergency feeding, you must continue until spring when there’s good nectar and pollen flows. You can feed frames of honey from a healthy hive. Sugar boards are a very good option as well, but it’s still too cold to feed syrup.

This is the time to anticipate your upcoming needs. Playing catch-up once the season has begun is not a good way to start. Build or repair your equipment and order your bees (if needed). Surround yourself with bee-related reading materials and attend your local bee club meetings and workshops.

January: Checklist

Estimated time needed: Less than 1 hour*
*Time estimates do not include equipment repair and cleaning or honey extraction.

Order bees, nucs, queens and other equipment and supplies
Check the hive entrance for blockage
Check the hive food stores, if it's feared to below going into winter
Clean your smoker and repair any damaged hive components
Attend your local bee club meetings or workshops

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February Beekeeping Guide

February is another slow month for the beekeeper and your hives. It’s nearly the same as January, but towards the end of the month, your bees may begin to increase in activity.

Bee Activity

The bee cluster will be in the top brood chamber. The queen may start to lay eggs in a small grouping late in the month, if temperatures moderate sufficiently. The grouping will be small and in the center of the cluster, but it will grow as the season progresses.

The size of the brood cluster depends directly on temperature; as it gets warmer, the bees inside the hive are able to move around and utilize their honey stores. During late February, the bees may consume 1 to 2 pounds per day and increased activity in and around your hives may become apparent.

Beekeeping To-Dos

It's another fairly slow month for the beekeeper, unless a lot of equipment repair is needed. Identify your needs for the upcoming season (i.e. number of supers, frames, bee packages) and order everything with plenty of time to pick up, assemble and paint in advance. It’s no fun to put bees in a hive that has wet paint.

Have your beekeeping goals for the year in mind.

  1. How many hives, nuc’s, splits and package’s will I need for spring?
  2. Do I need to order a replacement queen?
  3. What equipment will need to be repaired or replaced?
  4. If I am expanding my hive count, what equipment will I need to add?
  5. What is my planned cost/budget for the year?

Check each hive entrance for blockage and make sure the hives have enough honey to survive until spring. Either carefully lift the hive and see if it feels heavy, or quickly check the hive on a warm, calm day when the bees are flying. Do not remove any frames, but if it's necessary, start emergency feeding.

If you do begin to feed the hive, continue until spring when there are plenty of good nectar sources. You can feed them frames of honey from a healthy hive. Sugar boards are a very good option as well, but it’s still too cold to feed syrup.

Attend your local bee club meetings and read, read, read!

February: Checklist

Estimated time needed: 1 hour*
*Time estimates do not include equipment repair and cleaning or honey extraction.

Order bees, nucs and queens (if you haven't already)
Check the hive food stores
Make sure all equipment is ready and painted for bees
Attend your local bee club meetings or workshops
Network with local beekeepers to learn what they're doing that works

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March Beekeeping Guide

The first hints of spring come in March. It’s especially clear with your hives as the bees begin their early spring activities.

Bee Activity

The bees will begin flying in March and could find some nectar and pollen supplies. However, it won’t nearly be enough. This is the month when colonies can die of starvation. Feed your bees as needed. They can consume up to 3 pounds of food per day. You can feed them frames of honey from a healthy hive. Sugar boards are a very good option as well, but it’s still too cold to feed syrup.

Along with early flying, brood rearing will begin in earnest and will be quite noticeable by month’s end. More brood means more food consumed. The bees will continue to consume honey and pollen stores.

Beekeeping To-Dos

Early in the month, on a nice mild day when there's no wind and the bees are flying, you can have a quick peek inside your hive. It’s best not to remove the frames. Just have a look-see under the cover. If you do not see any sealed honey in the top frames, you may need to provide some emergency food (fondant or granulated sugar, if cold temps prevail). Once you start feeding, you shouldn't stop until they're bringing in their own food supplies and they're ready for honey supers.

When the hive is open, also check the status of the colony. Ensure the hive is queen-right (Are there eggs in the brood chamber? Do you need to combine weak colonies?) and feed pollen substitutes for rapid hive growth. Keep in mind, with cooler temperatures and limited nectar, the bees might be more aggressive.

March is a time for preparation and evaluation leading into the busy spring and summer months. Check each hives entrance for blockage and finish any last minute preparations. Re-check plans for new colonies, re-queening or other related up front operations. Now is also the time to evaluate your honey supers and make sure they are ready for the upcoming year.

March: Checklist

Estimated time needed: 2 hours*
*Time estimates do not include equipment repair and cleaning or honey extraction.

Order nucs, packages, hives and queens (if you haven't already)
Check the hive food stores
Make sure all equipment is ready and painted for bees
Apply the first treatment of Salvation Salve
Attend your local bee club meetings or workshops
Network with local beekeepers to learn what they're doing that works

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April Beekeeping Guide

Sprig showers and early flowers bring..bees! April is here and the hive is beginning to grow. Similar to the hive, so grows the list of to-dos for the beekeeper.

Bee Activity

The weather begins to improve, and the early blossoms begin to appear. As the month progresses, more and more pollen and nectar sources become available. Dandelions, willows, fruit trees, maples and some berries will begin blooming and are the major sources of pollen and nectar. The queen is busily laying eggs and the bees are raising brood in preparation for the coming year. The population is growing fast and the drones will begin to appear.

Beekeeping To-Dos

Good nutrition for your hives will be naturally a challenge with the irregular spring weather (rain, wind and cold). If there's no food available to your hives; feed, feed, and feed some more! If you think there might be a tiny shortage, feed as early as you can and check for carbs and protein. A protein patty (or frame of pollen) now is the cheapest insurance you can buy. For carbs, try a sugar board, (or frames of honey). Easy to feed and easy to eat. Feeding syrup or sugar boards will stimulate your bees and encourage them to eat. Continue feeding until they no longer take your offering.

Weather permitting, comprehensive inspection and spring cleaning time is here. Reverse the brood supers, unless the colony and brood are strong (covering both boxes). In this case, you should probably not reverse boxes (as this will split the brood area). You should, however, clean the bottom board whether you reverse boxes or not.

Note: Depending on the weather all of the above may need to be delayed until early May.

Later in the month, check your hives on a warm day for brood pattern, signs of diseases and overall health. If diseases or parasites are found, take necessary action to treat using whatever methods you are comfortable with.

Be especially mindful of swarming. You may want to set up swarm capture traps and have swarm retrieval equipment ready. Provide more room (if necessary) and consider splitting the hive. In extreme overcrowding (a very strong colony), checkerboarding may be an option worth considering. If swarm cells are present, you may try removing them but chances are the bees will still swarm.

Know how to prevent bee and hive losses by splitting your hives

If you’re starting new this year, make sure all of your equipment is assembled and painted. You should have at least one deep brood box and frames ready; along with a bottom board, inner cover, outer cover and feeding mechanism and supplies for when the bee packages arrive. If you don't, DO IT now. Then, install the new packages of bees.

April: Checklist

Estimated time needed: 3+ hours*
*Time estimates do not include equipment repair and cleaning or honey extraction.

Install early ordered bee packages
Perform spring splits and install nucs and queens starts (if needed) as the weather permits
Feed 1 gallon of High Fructose Corn Syrup "HFCS" every 10 days
Feed 1–2 lbs of Fat Bee Pollen Supplement every 10 days
Remove the mouse guard
Test and treat (if needed) for Varroa Mites. Read labels carefully and don't contaminate your honey crop.
Attend your local bee club meetings or workshops

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May Beekeeping Guide

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.

Bee Activity

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 To-Dos

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.

Learn more on how to recognize the early warning signs to prevent swarming

 

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).

Check out our article on Controlling Varroa Mites in Your Beehive

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: 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 beehive for health
Provide a fresh water supply (daily)
Apply second treatment of Salvation Salve
Attend your local bee club meetings or workshops

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June Beekeeping Guide

In June, your hive is filling up. Monitor your bees health and home as the honey begins to flow.

Bee Activity

The bee colonies who didn't swarm in April or May will be busting at the seams. Peak colony population occurs this month, and hopefully, it coincides with the season’s major honey flow. Depending on the season, it usually begins in June and continues into July. Queen egg laying will be at its peak, but may begin to drop this month. Either way, the hive will be bursting with activity.

New hives should be in double deeps, getting real close to 80 pounds per hive. Bearding may appear a little on hot days and some bees may even spend the night outside, clinging to the front of the hive if it’s very warm.

Beekeeping To-Dos

Watch the honey flow and ensure your bees have plenty of room to grow and store honey. Swarming is still a possibility. Add honey supers, as needed, to prevent swarming and to provide space. When adding supers, don’t add too many, too soon or they may not completely fill them up (remember to reverse honey supers when adding new ones). This is also the time to make sure you have enough honey supers and frames to last through the summer. You don't want to miss out on all of the honey in the coming weeks.

When all of the hive frames are 80% capped, begin to add hive body. Once the hive weighs 80 pounds and all frames are 90% filled, stop feeding.

Get a refresher and read some best-practices on collecting honey

Collect honey in clean comb (Comb that has not been in the brood chamber, or contaminated in any other ways by mice, wax moth, etc.). Harvest the first crop as soon as it’s capped so you have an early varietal, or at least a springtime artisan honey to share or sell.

Early honeys are light and mild, while later honeys are darker and generally stronger. Give each a name when you label them so you know you can find the same one again.

Check the hive every 10 days to determine brood pattern, the presence of the queen and to make certain the hive is healthy. Re-queen (if needed) and monitor for varroa mites so they don't get ahead of you.

Keep the hive cool

Provide adequate ventilation and keep the hives cool. If you can, supply shade during the hottest part of the day. Stagger the supers slightly to increase air flow and/or provide a screened inner cover (transport cover) in place of a standard inner cover. You can also space the inner cover up off the top super a little (not too much or they may make a burr comb). Bore 3/4" holes into some honey supers. They can be plugged when not used for ventilation and additional entrances during honey flow.

Ensure fresh water is available and near your hives at all times. This'll help maintain good neighbors, as your bees will not be gathering water from their leaking faucet. You'll also want to keep the weeds down around your hives.

June: Checklist

Estimated time needed: 4–5 hours*
*Time estimates do not include equipment repair and cleaning or honey extraction.

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 beehive for health
Provide a fresh water supply (daily)
Add honey supers
Attend your local bee club meeting

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July Beekeeping Guide

Bees and beekeepers are very busy in July. Your hive is buzzing along in the summer weather with plentiful nectar sources. Monitor your bees health and home as the honey continues to flow.

Bee Activity

Honey bees slow greatly in making wax and completing the spring nectar flow. Be prepared to extract honey. Remember, the comb cells should be 90% capped and the remaining uncapped honey should not be able to run out of the cells for it to be completely ripe for extraction.

The population of strong hives should peak about mid-July. Weaker hives may need to be combined or re-queened as winter survival requires strong colonies. If the weather is good, nectar flow may continue all month. However, usually we get a slowdown (dearth) as the month progresses.

When the weather is hot, large numbers of bees will begin to cool themselves on the hive’s exterior. The bee hive can also use 1.5 gallons of water per day to cool a hive. Plan ahead and make sure the closest water supply isn't your neighbors swimming pool.

Beekeeping To-Dos

In July, your hives will need attention in a variety of ways. Provide a fresh supply of water located near the hives, and continue to inspect for varroa mites and brood patterns. The health of your bees should be a major concern.

Although most swarming behavior stops in late June, continue to watch your hives for late swarms. Also, be on the lookout for robbing wasps, hornets, and other honey bees. During the Summer, there may be a dearth (period of no nectar flow) that causes them to look for weak hives to rob.

Some indicators of nectar flows are:

  • Fresh white wax on comb and top bars
  • Bees are easy to work with
  • Foundation is drawn out quickly
  • Bees fanning at the entrance
  • Large amounts of nectar ripening in the honey supers
  • Knowledge of nectar plants in your area and their bloom cycle will aid the beekeeper in anticipating flow times

Provide some shade to your hives during the hottest part of the day so they can cool the hive effectively. Too much heat can cause the bees to spend more time cooling the hive than gathering nectar to make honey. Also, consider using screened transportation inner covers in place of the standard inner cover. This will provide better circulation and help to keep the bees cool.

Add supers (as needed) to alleviate crowding and to encourage the bees to store more honey than they need. Check for surplus honey and harvest (if needed).

Get a refresher on harvesting honey

 

July: Checklist

Estimated time needed: 2-3 hours*
*Time estimates do not include equipment repair and cleaning or honey extraction.

Extract ripe honey
Provide a fresh water supply (daily)
Add honey supers
Attend your local bee club meeting

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August Beekeeping Guide

Your bees will be busy again in August, however nectar and pollen are in shorter supply than in previous months. They may become more flighty in search of nectar and pollen. There’s less to do for the beekeeper this month, but you’ll need to continue to monitor and care for the hive.

Bee Activity

In August, the colony will be at its peak population or just past it, and growth will diminish as the month goes by. The queen, however, will begin laying eggs for winter bees late in the month.

You’ll probably notice the bees bearding up on the front entrance of the hive in the evenings. This is simply the bees’ way of cooling on hot summer days.

The end of summer is when other, stronger hives or wasps and hornets will attempt to steal honey from weaker hives. One sure sign is when your bees appear to be fighting at the entrance.

Beekeeping To-Dos

By now, you can relax about swarming. It was essentially over in July. You’ll still want to keep a watchful eye on the hive though. Problems may arise with a weak hive, mites, diseases, parasites and skunks.

Be on the lookout for robbing activity from other bees or wasps. If you notice your bees fighting at the entrance, help defend the hive by reducing the size of the entrance or setting up wasp and yellow jacket traps.

Bearding

If you notice bearding at the front entrance of the hive, the colony may be cooling themselves on hot summer days. It may also be an indication of inadequate ventilation or a lack of room in the hive. Try adding a super (if there’s still time to fill it up) and increasing the ventilation by propping the cover up about ¼″ or installing a screened moving inner cover. Also provide a fresh supply of water near the hive.

Mites

The mite population will probably be high at this time, especially in second year colonies. Test and treat your hive with approved methods when honey supers are in place. Once all honey supers have been removed, several other treatment options will become available. Use only U.S.D.A approved treatments.

Brooding

Continue to monitor brood patterns and queen activity throughout the month. In late August, the queen will begin to lay eggs for the winter bees. Ensure a strong winter colony by checking the honey stores beginning at the end of the month. There should be plenty of honey in the brood boxes. Remember, a strong hive going into winter increases the chances for survival in the cold months ahead.

Adding Supers

Now is the time to ensure your bees will have enough room to last the summer. Avoid adding too much though or they won’t fill the supers before the final harvest time. Follow the rule of 7/10: if 10 frames are fully capped, add another super if it’s early in the month.

However, if it’s late in the month, don’t add supers. This’ll force the bees to start back filling the upper brood box with winter supplies. It’ll also approximately coincide with the beginning of the second (smaller) nectar flow, which will help supply pollen and nectar for winter stores. Fall blooming plants, such as aster, goldenrod, sunflowers and others, will enable the bees to cap off their winter reserves.

August: Checklist

Estimated time needed: 1-2 hours*
*Time estimates do not include equipment repair and cleaning or honey extraction.

Extract ripe honey
Provide a fresh water supply (daily)
Remove the queen excluder until next season
Apply the third treatment of Salvation Salve
Test and treat (if needed) for Varroa Mites. Read labels carefully and don’t contaminate your honey crop.
Check hive weight to begin getting ready for winter
Attend your local bee club meeting

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September Beekeeping Guide

The transition to the cooler fall and winter months is in full effect. The bees are irritable and both the colony and the beekeeper are preparing the hive for the months ahead.

Bee Activity

The population of the hive is shrinking as the queen continues to slow her egg-laying, and drones are being removed to conserve winter stores. Nectar and pollen sources become more scarce as cooler weather moves in and plants begin to die or go dormant. The lack of nectar, combined with cooling weather and robbing, may lead to irritable, and sometimes, aggressive behavior with your bees.

The colony will cluster inside the hive on cooler nights and worker bees will begin to bring in large amounts of propolis to seal the hive against drafts. If there’s intense activity outside the entrance, look for stronger hives or wasps and hornets trying to steal honey. One sure sign is when your bees appear to be fighting outside the entrance.

Beekeeping To-Dos

In September, consider reducing hive bodies down to two deep boxes, unless you’re participating in fall nectar flow. In that case, you’ll need to wait.

Final honey harvests

Harvest your honey crop, if it hasn’t been extracted already. Cold honey is much more difficult to extract. The ideal extraction temperature is about 75 to 80 degrees. Remember to leave the colony with at least 80 pounds of honey for the winter. Never take honey from the bottom two boxes. This is their food and where they stored their syrup, medication and mite treatments.

Check your hive for honey stores. If the hive does not feel heavy or the bottom brood supers are not 75-80% full of honey, consider feeding sugar syrup (as directed). Once started, continue feeding until they stop taking it or slow down considerably. Then remove any leftover sugar syrup from the hive so as not to increase problems due to condensation.

Pull off all remaining honey supers to either securely store or extract them. You should have all of the supers removed by the second week in September.

Treat for mites & diseases

After the honey supers are removed, treat for mites – both tracheal and varroa – if necessary. This is the best time as the colony is going to be broodless and any mites present will be exposed to your preferred removal method. Apply treatment when the daytime temperature is consistently below 85 degrees. Consider adding grease patties and treat for diseases, such as foulbrood and Nosema.

Read more about how to treat mites in your hives

 

September: Checklist

Estimated time needed: 3+ hours*
*Time estimates do not include equipment repair and cleaning or honey extraction.

Extract ripe honey
Provide a fresh water supply
Check for the queen's presence
Apply the fourth treatment of Salvation Salve
Test and treat (if needed) for Varroa and Tracheal Mites. Read labels carefully and don’t contaminate your honey crop.
Fall Feeding | Fat Bee protein patty and syrup
Attend your local bee club meeting

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October Beekeeping Guide

Your bee colony is decreasing in size and preparing the hive for winter. It’s essential for the beekeeper to do the same. There’s work to be done to help your bees survive the cold months ahead.

Bee Activity

In October, the bees are gathering the last bits of nectar and pollen they can find. They’re also busy gathering propolis to seal the hive against drafts in preparation for the upcoming winter. Brood rearing is slowing down very rapidly, and bees will be clustering in the hive on cool mornings.

Drones are being removed from the hive and the overall colony population is decreasing to help save the food stores for winter. A few drones may be retained throughout the winter for reasons not completely understood. You can see them flying on warm days, but this is not a concern. If, however, there are large numbers of drones, you could have either a drone laying queen or laying worker bees.

Beekeeping To-Dos

Although the load is lessening, the work you do this month is critical. Reduce the hives bodies down to 2 boxes, if necessary. The key is to not let your hives get too low on honey that powers them through winter. You’ll need to verify the honey stores and protect the hive from wind and, possibly, mice.

The honey stores need 70 to 80 pounds to get the hive through winter. Check your hive by carefully lifting it from the back. If the hive feels heavy and you can barely move it, you should have enough honey. A light hive is a problem and you should feed the bees (2:1 sugar to water ratio) or you’ll risk the loss of this hive due to starvation. If you begin feeding, continue until October 15 or unless they stop taking it. The bees will need some time to render out the moisture in the syrup to make it stable to use through the winter. You may also consider supplementing the hive with pollen. A good hive will need 500-600 square inches of stored pollen reserves to winter well.

Configure your hives for winter, with attention to ventilation and moisture control. Depending on where your hives are located, plan to add a windbreak; especially if winter winds are prevalent. Ensure that the bees have adequate ventilation at both the bottom and top of the hive. Moisture produced during metabolism needs to escape. Otherwise, condensation will surely build up and drop onto the bees, causing many to not survive the winter.

Prepare your bees for the cold by winterizing your hives

Elevate the rear of the hive slightly so any moisture that does form will migrate to the front of the hive and then downward. Excess moisture can also cause mildew and molding, sour honey, and give the bees dysentery (Nosema). Remember, wet bees are dead bees.

Install mouse guards. It’s recommended even if you don’t already have mice. Also consider medicating the hive, if necessary. Inventory your equipment. Repair or replace anything that’s not working.

 

October: Checklist

Estimated time needed: 2-3 hours*
*Time estimates do not include equipment repair and cleaning or honey extraction.

Check for the queen’s presence
Fall Feeding | Fat Bee protein patty and syrup. Complete before Oct. 15.
Add windbreaks with adequate ventilation
Test and treat (if needed) for Varroa Mites
Attend your local bee club meeting

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November Beekeeping Guide

With winter on the way, bee activity is slowing down even more. Colder temperatures bring the hive population down while beekeepers complete final winter preparations.

 

Bee Activity

The bees will start to cluster more due to the colder temperature and begin favoring the top section of the hive. This is because warm air rises and the bees are trying to conserve and maintain as much body heat as possible. 

Clustering around the queen bee will become more and more common as the thousands of worker bees vibrate to keep warm. Brooding and general bee activity will begin to slow to a more dormant state.

The bees will consume 1 to 2 pounds of honey to keep warm during the colder months. You may notice more and more dead bees around the hive. This is a normal process as the hive population decreases to conserve honey stores.

Beekeeping To-Dos

As the bees slow down, so will your beekeeping duties. Preparing your hive for the winter is your top priority. Winter wraps and windbreakers are recommended to keep the harsh winter weather out. Mouse guards may also be needed if you see holes where mice could get in to feed on the honey stores. 

Winter Wraps

The winter air and moisture are hard on bee colonies. To keep out the harsh Intermountain West weather, we recommend winter wraps. Wraps keep out the dry winter air that sap the much-needed heat in the hive while also preventing moisture from getting in. When applying the wrap, be mindful that hives do need some ventilation and space for the bees to escape in order to defecate.

Windbreakers

Windbreakers come in all shapes and sizes. You can use anything from bales of hay to crates to barrels, anything really to bear the brunt of the wind. Any wind that gets past these will be blocked out by the winter wraps.

Mouse Guards

Mouse guards prevent the chewing and gnawing of hungry mice. Bees naturally close up holes or any unnecessary gaps in a hive but if any gaps are seen lower on the hive box, mouse guards are recommended. The furry little critters will be desperate for food in the winter and will try to get at your colony’s honey stores. 

 

November: Checklist

Estimated time needed: 1-2 hours*
*Time estimates do not include equipment repair and cleaning or honey extraction.

 Store equipment away for winter 
Remove any remaining medications and liquid food on a warm day 
Check the hive food stores and place sugar patties or another non-liquid food supply on the top bars, if necessary
 Wrap hives with adequate ventilation and set up windbreaks   
 Check entrance reducer (mouse guard) is in place
 Review the past year and make plans for next season

Attend your local bee club meetings or workshops

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December Beekeeping Guide

Winter is now in full swing as your colony huddles together to stay warm. In between checking on your hive through winter storms, look into more articles and videos on beekeeping while putting some thought into planning for the upcoming season.

Bee Activity

The queen has completely stopped laying eggs by December and the colony has formed their winter cluster. Any flight activity is minimized to only cleansing flights, and since the colony is in winter survival mode, most or all of the drones in the hive have been kicked out. 

Beekeeping To-Dos

Simply checking the hive conditions will be your main objective this month. The queen will often be near the center of the bee cluster as they keep her alive and well. As a beekeeper, your goal is similar but also involves making sure the rest of the hive is free from excess moisture and wind through winter storms.

Keeping the Bees Warm, Dry & Comfortable

Following any snow storms, clear any snow that may have accumulated to block their main entry points. Remember that they will only being leaving the hive during this time is to defecate. 

Try not to disturb the hive when the outside temperature is below 55 degrees fahrenheit. Doing so will let their precious body heat escape, making them susceptible to further population loss. Keep in mind a lower population is common in the winter, helping to naturally conserve food stores.

Food Stores

Look for sealed honey stores when temperatures are mild, making sure not to remove the hive frames. Look under the cover for sealed honey stores. If they seem low or absent, emergency feeding my be needed. 

If you begin emergency feeding, you must continue until spring when there's good nectar and pollen flows. You can feed frames of honey from a healthy hive. Sugar boards are a very good option as well, but it’s still too cold to feed syrup.

In your free time, learn more about beekeeping and maintaining a healthy and productive bee colony. Reflect on your last season and begin thinking about what will be needed for the coming warmer months.

 

December: Checklist

Estimated time needed: Less than 1 hour*
*Time estimates do not include equipment repair and cleaning or honey extraction.

 Check the hive food stores and place sugar patties or another non-liquid food supply on the top bars, if necessary
 Remove any blockages from the hive entrance, including snow or build up of dead bees, if necessary
 Check entrance reducer (mouse guard) is in place 
 Check and ensure the hive has good ventilation

 Order bees, nucs, queens and other equipment and supplies for next year
Attend your local bee club meetings or workshops

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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.

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Information for this article was provided by Kent Mickelsen, Utah Certified Nurseryman, IFA Agronomy; Utah State University Extension; and Slide Ridge Honey in Mendon, Utah.