Spring is an important and busy time for beekeepers. It’s finally warm enough to open up the hives and see how their bee colonies have fared over the winter. They also have several tasks they must do to prepare for the upcoming season.
What do Beekeepers do in Spring?
Honey bees typically follow a seasonal pattern, so it’s easy to predict what beekeeping tasks must be done throughout the year. In the spring, beekeepers must check on their overwintered hives and prepare them for spring, as well as start new hives.
Beekeeping Spring Management
Beekeeping spring management times vary depending on the temperatures in your area. Some areas of the US get spring temperatures as early as late January, however other areas may need to wait until March. What you are looking for is consistent temperatures over 60° F.
The first thing beekeepers will do is check on their hives to see how their bees are doing after the winter. This includes undoing winterization on the hives, and cleaning and storing any dead out hives.
Dead out hives are beehives in which the entire colony has died. This sometimes happens in the winter due to starvation, or due to pests and disease.
If you have a dead out hive, it is a good idea to examine it to learn what caused the colony’s death. This can help you adjust your hive management practices in the future to avoid another dead out hive.
Replace Frames and Foundation
This is also good time to look for any frames with old, dark comb. They should be replaced with new frames and foundation. In general, frames and foundation in the brood box should be replaced every 3-4 years. For honey supers, frames and foundation do not need to be replaced quite as often.
It helps to change out every other frame at a time, as to not cause the colony too much stress. If you notice that the wax on your frames have become a dark or black color, you know it is time to replace it.
Reverse Hive Boxes
Once the weather is warm enough to open your hive, you will see that the colony has moved into the top box of the hive. At this time, you should move this box to the bottom of the hive and remove any extra boxes. Store them for later use.
Check on the Queen
At this time, beekeepers need to assess the health of the queen. If she does not appear productive, now is the time to replace her. Requeening should occur when the queen gets older and is not able to efficiently lay eggs.
Early spring is the ideal time to feed bees pollen supplements. Eating pollen will help bees with egg laying, brood rearing, and colony development – all things they are trying to do at this time.
When the bees start eating pollen, they create more brood cells. The queen will then start laying more eggs and nurse bees will begin making royal jelly to feed larvae. Pollen supplements are usually given in the form of pollen patties.
Install New Bees
If you ordered new bees, they can be installed into their new home now.
Put up Swarm Traps
Swarming occurs when the queen leaves the hive with half of the colony. It is a natural occurrence, but something beekeepers try to avoid as it sets back the colony’s growth.
Beekeepers must check their hives periodically for signs of swarming such as increased drone cells and queen cups. In the spring, swarm traps can be set up to catch both the beekeeper’s own swarming bees and other swarms from the area.
Add More Boxes As Needed
When your colony shows signs of expansion, it is time to add another box. This will happen in spring, as that’s the time that the colony will naturally explode.
Watch your timing, though. Adding a box too early may invite pests to move into them. Adding a box too late could cause your bees to swarm. It is a good rule to add another box once the uppermost box is 60% -70% drawn out with wax comb.
Treat for Varroa Mites
A varroa mite infestation can be deadly for a bee colony. Beekeepers must be diligent about monitoring for signs of varroa mites in their hives. Visual signs of varroa mites include seeing mites on bees or in the hive, chewed down brood, and deformed wing virus.
If the beekeeper finds that there are mites in their hive, treatment is needed. Early spring is a good time for varroa mite treatment, as there are no honey supers and not much capped brood. However, treatment can be done in the summer and fall as well.
Spring beekeeping tasks include cleaning up from winter and preparing and helping the bees to thrive in Spring. The beekeeper must clean and check hives, replace frames and foundation, check on the queen, and feed the bees pollen. All of these tasks will give the colony the greatest chance of a healthy and productive season.