The Beekeepers Calendar
Beekeeping is seasonal so the time needed and activities required vary over the year. The busiest time is the early summer when each hive should be checked weekly to control swarming and ensure bees have enough space to store honey. In the middle of winter there is not much to do, except to check for physical damage or snow blocking the entrances. Throughout the year it is best practice to keep records of each hive so that you can plan effectively and make rational decisions.
January: Heft your hives to check the bees have sufficient stores and give them fondant over the crown board hole if needed. Check that the entrances are clear of dead bees, leaves, & snow. Keep warm in front of the fire and read the bee books you got for Christmas!
February: Continue to heft your hives and feed fondant if necessary. Set yourself up for a good season by making a plan. Check you have all the equipment you need and get any flat pack hive parts built. On a warm day, check to see if there is pollen coming in as an indication that there is a laying queen.
March: The colony should be growing quickly and this a common time for starvation. Continue to check the amount of stores and give more fondant if required. If you want to stimulate your colony into early growth then consider giving full strength syrup later in the month.
April: Feed with syrup, if needed, until forage becomes available. On a warm day, replace the floor with a clean one, put on a queen excluder and a super. Check varroa levels and treat if required. If the weather is mild regular brood box inspections can begin. Be vigilant for early swarms.
May: Begin thorough and regular brood inspections. Begin comb replacement manipulations to reduce possibility of disease. Ensure the queen has space to lay by replacing excess stores to either side of brood nest. Add additional supers in good time to reduce overcrowding / swarm preparations.
June: Continue to inspect weekly intervals for any signs of disease or swarming. The brood should be able to fill most of the brood chamber this month. You may be able to take off capped honey as a spring crop but be aware of the ‘June Gap’ and check the bees have enough stores.
July: Swarming should drop off and you should be able to stop weekly inspections throughout the month. The bees will focus on foraging and building winter stores. Consider replacing poor queens with ones you’ve raised or buy ones from other local stock.
August: Harvest supers early to give time to help the bees prepare for winter. Check varroa levels and treat if required to ensure winter bees are healthy. Set up wasp traps and reduce entrances to prevent robbing by bees and wasps. Feed your bees strong syrup until the boxes are as heavy as they can be.
September: Assess hives and unite weak colonies or those with failing queens to get them ready for winter. The colony will need at least 15kg of stores for the cold months and feeding needs to be completed before the end of the month to give the colony time to drive off the excess water.
October: Do not fully open the hive from now on. Fit a mouse guard to the hive entrance at the end of the month. Add a mesh cage if woodpeckers are a problem. Remove vegetation from around the base of the hive to ensure good ventilation, check the roof doesn’t leak.
November: This is the first of three fairly quiet months. Check hives occasionally to make sure all is well. If you are worried tap on the crown board and listen for a buzzing response. Start making hive produce such as candles, creams to give as Christmas presents. Make mead.
December: Following a cold period when there is no brood check and consider treating for Varroa using an Oxalic acid based treatment. Consider the season, review your record cards and start to dream of warmer and brighter days to come.