January/February – Study or Workshop Time
Catch up on your “Bee reading”. Order packages and nucs. Assemble frames. Get supers filled and ready.
March – Looking Time
On any warm flyable day, examine all colonies. Double check any not flying. Remove any dead colonies. Start feeding any very light colonies. Winter packaging may be removed, but leave on entrance reducer.
April – Getting Ready Time
Definitely the time to check for winter starvation. Winter packaging should be removed. Feed light colonies, preferably with sugar syrup (with medication if desired) over inner cover hole. Surround jar/pail with an empty hive body so bees can feed in bad weather and can’t move down to bottom entrance feeder.
May – Critical Time
This is the key month. On a warm day, frames should be removed to check for colony’s condition; lack of stores or poor queen (uneven brood pattern); colony not building up and egg laying workers. When dandelions and fruit trees bloom, colonies should be stripped down on a warm day. The bottom board should be cleaned of dead bees and debris that retain moisture and restrict space. Colonies showing fast build up and extra strength should have hive bodies reversed.
Keep entrance reducers on because nights are still chilly. Remove only after warm weather if firmly established. On extra strong colonies, tip back upper hive body and look underneath for swarm cells.
June – Swarming Time
Early June is definitely the time for signs of swarming. A swarmed out hive will not produce a honey crop, and may even lose it’s queen and finally the whole colony. To prevent swarming, reverse the hive bodies. Overcrowded colonies will cover the top frames when the inner cover is removed. Add a super on the top to avoid overcrowding.
The hive may also be split if desired. Transfer some frames of sealed brood and frames of newly laid eggs to a new hive. Include frames with queen cells on the bottom, leaving the queen in the original hive.
July – Supering Time
Watch for the honey flow. Any new white wax along the edges of the top bars means a colony needs a super. Super ahead of the nectar flow, an extra super or two is good insurance. It gives bees more room to move around at keeps them content. Watch for any colony slowing down – not flying like it should. Don’t ignore it. Check inside for disease, presence of queen, or too many drone cells. Frames with too many drone cells should be moved to outer sides and eventually replaced.
August – Honey Crop Time
Remove filled supers and extract, returning them to the colonies. Supers can also be added if necessary. Re-queening is also an option at this time.
September – Extracting Time
Honey should be extracted while weather is still fairly warm. To build up winter stores, supers should be off to force the bees to fill the empty brood areas from the fall flow. In areas with a strong fall nectar flow, supers may be left on strong colonies. Late in the month after the first frost is a good time to get mouse guards on.
October – Feeding Time
Lift each colony from the rear. If heavy and brood chambers seem glued down, it should have sufficient stores for winter. Feed light colonies generously and steadily throughout the month. If desired, sprinkle medication on top bars. It’s the honey over the cluster that counts. Bees can starve with honey only on the outer frames. An extra super of honey is always good insurance. Some springs are delayed, cold and wet.
November/December – Wrap Up Time
Get colonies insulated. Wood chips, sawdust, leaves in a burlap bag over the top cover surrounded by an empty super keeps moisture from condensing and dripping from a cold inner cover. A piece of screen between the burlap bag and the bees will prevent them from chewing a hole through the bag. Upper ventilation holes on the sides of inner cover are essential. Moisture accumulation, not cold, can kill a colony. Possibly a final tar paper wrap around the hive body provides a wind break and keeps the wood work dry.
December is the time to relax and reflect on the year’s activity.