Simon's Monthly Tips
During the month of January, hive activity is often very low. Bees usually restrict their flights to warmer days, just to defecate. You should use this “quiet month” to ensure your hives and equipment are in good order prior to the oncoming season.
February is an important time to make sure the hive has enough food. This is particularly true where the weather is milder and bees are more active instead of clustering to stay warm; however, in a harsher winter, bees do need adequate stores to maintain their hive temperature through cold spells. You should carefully lift an end of the hive to gauge the weight.
Many beekeepers will always introduce feed at this time in order to stimulate egg production leading to early colony growth. This can have the effect of improving strength and yield later in the season.
The month of March can surprise beekeepers because many bees starve during this time of the year. Check the weight of your hive, and feed more if necessary. If the weather prevents much natural foraging, many beekeepers will always ensure that there is feed available to encourage activity and egg laying.
The bees will start moving and expending energy, you want to make sure they’re fed. However, only perform your first inspection if it is a fairly warm day. Uk beekeepers like treat for mites before the nectar flow begins.
If it’s been a cold winter, it all starts happening during April. The bees begin bringing in pollen for the season, so it’s time for a thorough hive inspection, consider the condition of the comb, egg laying, pollen collection (feed if necessary). Thoroughly treat for hive pests and diseases. As a 'Good housekeeping' rule, your bees should be on at least one third of new comb by the end of the season. This is a very effective way of reducing the risk of diseases and infestations.
May is the heyday for the hives. There should be a nice buzz of activity at the entrance.
When you open the hive, look for nectar and pollen stores, and make sure there’s a nice laying pattern in the brood chambers. Also keep an eye out for swarming behavior and queen cell production.
If the weather is nice, the bees will be in full swing, but you should take the “Great British Summer” into account! Feed if the weather lets you down. Keep a careful eye out for queen cell production. Check the beehive for a good laying pattern and a healthy queen. Add more supers if you need to, and ready your equipment for honey production.
This month inspections are key, pay particular attention to checking for queen cells. Add supers as required, remove full supers if that’s your plan. Get your honey production equipment ready, check everything thoroughly and clean/renew where necessary.
The height of summer should have the bees bringing in plenty of nectar and supers filling up. August is also a month for wasps, if you are suffering from “Robbery” consider an entrance reducer to keep them out. You may also want to consider wasp traps of even relocating hives that are being bombarded with wasps or hornets in extreme circumstances.
Keep wasps out, and commence pest/mite treatment as soon as you remove your supers. It’s now time to think ahead to winter – you need to ensure your colonies are strong enough to survive, so you’ll have to juggle some brood frames or consider amalgamating colonies to achieve viable winter colonies. Unless we are enjoying an Indian summer, prepare your winter feed.
Honey processing is usually in full swing by now hopefully, and your winter feeding should be well under way or completed if the forecast is bad. Chemeical varroa treatment should also be completed to ensure healthy hives and no contamination. Pop your mouse guards on ready.
November is a “hands off” month, as the cold weather starts to bite you should refrain from inspections and use the time to plan your next season. Make sure you have mouse guards on all entrances.
At the end of the month you should perform a midwinter mite treatment, and inspect the outside of your hives for mouse or other pest damage. Effect any repairs as necessary for the next year. Create your wishlist of new/improved equipment!