This page is to give the beekeeper a month by month list of tasks that should be performed. The information being offered is in reflection of Tennessee weather conditions. You may have to adjust it for your Agricultural Zone. Please select the Quarter of the year you wish to view by clicking on the appropriate one below.
This is the time for ordering your bees in order to get them by spring in your shipping zone. Because of CCD there is a shortage of bees, so be sure and order early.
Order early your new equipment such as frames and wax so as to avoid the spring rush delays.
If you have bees, this is the time to start checking your hives for stores. By now there should be at least 15 lbs. of honey for them to eat on. That would be about six shallow frames of capped honey (2 1/2 lbs. per frame or 3 1/2 lbs. per medium frame or 6 – 7 lbs. per deep frame). With mediums you will need to have 3 or 4 frames of capped honey. Deeps need to have 2 – 3 frames of capped honey at this time.
Check all hives in your apiary for missing tops since high winds can blow them off. We use a solid brick on top to keep them in place.
Be sure and check for muddy paw prints on the landing boards if your hives are sitting on blocks or stands that are close to the ground. These are usually from skunks trying to get the bees to come out of the hive in order to defend it, thus becoming the skunk’s midnight snack. To stop this, raise the hive up so the skunk can’t reach it or put a carpet tack strip on the edge of the landing board with the tacks facing forward towards the entrance of the hive. The tacks will stick their paws when they pull them back, thus stopping the attacks, but will not harm the bees.
Now is the time to open your hives and check for a laying queen, diseases and brood. Only open the hive if the temperature is 50-55 degrees with the sun shining and no wind blowing.
Look again at the honey stores. If less than 15 lbs., then you must feed them. Moistened sugar is the best way to go this time of year. This is done by removing the outer cover and inner covers. Place one sheet of newspaper on top of the frames making sure that it is placed right over the brood. Place some sugar on the paper, wetting it lightly as you go with water using a new spray bottle. Continue adding and wetting sugar until it reaches the top of the inner cover that will be turned upside down on top of it. The sugar is held in place by the newspaper. The bees will remove the paper as they move up to eat the moist sugar. Another way to feed the bees is to make a fondant candy and place directly over the cluster of bees. They will eat up into the candy. A large batch can be made by using 15 lbs. of sugar, 4 cups of water and 3 3/4 tsp. of vinegar. (see Fondant Bee Candy Recipe page) .
When checking a hive, the bees should cover 5 frames or so. If not, you might think about uniting the hive with a strong one that has a good queen. This can be done by removing the weak queen from the hive. To unite the two hives, place a sheet of newspaper on top of the frames of the strong hive after removing the outer and inner covers. Then cut 5 or 6 slits in the paper running parallel with the frames. Place the weak hive on top and replace the outer and inner covers. Both hives will be working hard to remove the newspaper. Thus, they will not kill each other and will become one hive. Just make sure they have honey for the combined hive.
If you do not have a natural source of pollen, you will need to feed them a pollen substitute.
By mid February, the queen starts to lay eggs so as to have in the colony 60,000 to 80,000 worker bees by the peak honey flow. As the new bees become 15 or so days old, they will start to secrete wax platelets which they use to expand the colony. Put on a honey super of drawn out comb. Remove every other one and replace it with new wax foundation. By doing so, this gives the bees a place to put the new platelet of wax, thus making them think they have plenty of room to expand the colony. Giving them more supers as needed to place the new wax will help them to make more honey than ever before. If there is no place for them to put the wax, they will prepare to swarm in about six weeks.
Mid February is the time to start feeding the bees a sugar syrup mixture containing Tea Tree Oil to control Nosema (see Natural Treatments page) . This is made with 2 parts sugar to 1 part water for this time of year. To make 2 gallons, you will need 2 5/8 qt. or sugar and 3 1/2 qt. of hot water (if using city water, boil to remove the chlorine as for a baby bottle and cool to touch) then add sugar. Varroa mites can be controlled with Wintergreen Oil (see Natural Treatments page).
(Note) All sugar water should be made with pure cane sugar!
If the colony does not have at least 15 lbs. of honey, then feed them.
In March, as a rule, the brood will be in the top box. The boxes must be reversed at this time. This is done by placing the top box on the bottom and the empty bottom box on the top. Never split the brood chamber if they are in the middle of the two boxes; wait until the bees move into the top box or place the empty bottom box on top if using 3 medium boxes for brood chambers. The new queen will work up into the box in about 2 weeks or until the honey flow begins. By doing so, the numbers will increase and the queen will think she has plenty of room to expand the colony.
Start the spring stimulant feeding by late March. (see Natural Treatments page).