For beekeepers, each season brings new tasks in regards to management of their beehives. Depending on the season, honey bees have different needs. The exact timing of the season will vary depending on your location.
Some beekeepers like to divide their seasons up into periods instead. Those periods are the dearth period, build up period, honey flow period, and harvesting period. Either way, each season, or period of your hive, have different management methods to help your colony thrive year round.
Seasonal Management of Honey Bees
Spring can also be known as the build up period. This is when plants are starting to open up and flower. Spring is the time to get bees and start your hive.
During the spring, the bees will work hard to collect pollen and nectar to build up their food stores. Right now, the colony is focusing on building comb, laying eggs, and caring for the brood.
- If you bought package bees, you may feed them, if necessary.
- Harvest leftover honey. If your existing hive has any honey left over from winter, you may harvest that honey now.
- Set up and leave an empty hive out in case your colony decides to swarm.
- Observe the brood pattern during hive inspections.
- Confirm that the queen is still alive. If she is not, you must get a new queen as soon as possible.
Summer is the honey flow period. You may notice that many flowering plants are now in full bloom. Because of this strong honey flow, bees are able to collect a lot of pollen and nectar. At this time, you may notice a larger amount of food stores in the hive.
- Keep the queen in the brood area by inserting a queen excluder.
- Add extra supers when needed.
- Stop feeding the bees, there should be enough nectar for them to forage.
- Ensure that there is a good water source near your hives.
- Frequent hive inspections to see that the brood pattern is good.
- Monitor for varroa mites or other pests.
- Harvest honey if the supers are full.
Fall is the time in which beekeepers harvest honey. In the fall, beekeepers must inspect their hives regularly to determine the right time for this. Another important fall task is to make sure that your bees are ready for winter.
Around honey harvesting time you may notice that there are more worker bees outside the hive. The guard bees may also become more aggressive than usual. Be sure to use a smoker and wear protective clothing when harvesting honey.
- Check the hive signs of pests or disease.
- Remove any diseased comb.
- Can feed bees if dearth starts early.
- Add entrance reducer and mouse guards.
- Ensure that the hive has adequate ventilation.
- If in a windy area, place a weight on top of the hives to prevent them from falling over.
Winter is the dearth period for bees. That means that there is no pollen or nectar available to the bees. The queen will stop laying eggs at this time, so no more brood will be made.
While the dearth period is usually seasonal, there are other factors that can contribute to a dearth. A prolonged dry season, for example, will prohibit plants from flowering. Or, a prolonged period of heavy rain would prevent bees from being able to forage.
Cold temperature is a big reason for a dearth period. When temperatures drop below 50°F, bees are not able to fly well. Instead, they’ll stay in the hive to cluster and form heat.
- Complete all disease treatment and make sure no pests are present.
- Monitor hives for wind damage. If necessary move hives behind a wind break.
- Frequently check hive openings to ensure that there is good ventilation.
- On warmer days, open the hive to check how much food the bees have left.
- If bees run out of food, you may feed them.
- Order and assemble new equipment and bees for next season.
In beekeeping, each season brings different tasks. These tasks vary depending on the needs of the bees and the honey flow in your area. The seasonal management of honey bees is important because bees require different things throughout the year.