Keeping bees can be very rewarding, and requires minimal effort. The most complicated aspect is the timing. If you know when to do each step, you can easily keep your bee colony safe, thriving and happy. The following information will help you create your beekeeping schedule.
The way that you prepare for and care for your hive during the year will vary slightly depending on the season. This beekeeper’s calendar offers some general guidelines for what you should be doing and when. Adapt this calendar to fit your needs.
Supplemental feeding throughout the year - especially in the spring - provides the nutrition bees need to create enough food heading into (and throughout) winter months and will help build the needed weight of the hive for honey harvesting.
NOTE: Directions are based on an elevation of 4,000 feet. Climates in southern and northern states might be a month earlier or later.
BEGINNERS: For those starting out in beekeeping, this is a time of education and preparation. Learn all you can by connecting with local beekeeping clubs and associations as well as checking state and local laws in your area.
ESTABLISHED HIVES: During winter, there is much less work for bees and beekeepers. Adapt to the bees needs and schedule, rather than have the bees adapt to yours. This is a great time to anticipate your needs for the coming season. Attend to repair or replace any items (if needed).
While many beekeepers choose a hands off approach through the winter, if you check and notice honey stores are low, you can supplement with emergency feed. Only check the hive if outside temperatures are above 55°F. Liquid feed or sugar water can freeze in cold temperatures. If feeding through winter, you will need to continue through spring until there’s nectar and pollen flows for the bees to find feed naturally.
Outside temperatures can drop to -40°F, however, your bees will gather into a tight ball to maintain an inner hive temperature of 92-93°F required for their survival.
Many bees will naturally die during the winter months and these bees will be moved out front of the hive. Ensure snow or ice isn’t blocking the entrance to allow for proper ventilation and bees can continue to work.
Estimated time (1 hour):
Order bees and other equipment and supplies
As needed, check the hive entrance for blockage
Check the hive food stores, if it's feared to be low going into winter
Clean your smoker and repair or replace any damaged hive components
Attend local bee club and association meetings or workshops