Spring is 36 days from today! For those that are well organized, bring it on, we are ready. For the rest of us there are lots of February activities to consider, plan, schedule and complete.
Removing any hives that didn’t survive so I can clean the frames and supers is at the top on my list. This also allows me to cull the older frames – I try not to go more than 4 years, and like leftovers in my refrigerator, if I’m in doubt, I throw it out. I look for any abnormal, odd looking or deformed comb. I look for capped cells and because I don’t know with any certainty why the hive died, I tend to throw out any comb with dead capped brood. A few old salvaged frames are not worth the risk of putting disease into a new hive. New frames are cheap (about $2.50 each with foundation) compared to hives of healthy bees. Cleaning old frames takes too much time and is a mess.
Setup the new 3 ring binder record book for 2018. I start each year with a new record book page for each hive. My hives are numbered and the book has corresponding tabs for each one. I keep previous year’s records and review them for activity dates.
Repair and repaint equipment as needed. I don’t like to paint but unpainted wood rots. Enough said.
Build new frames and install the foundation for the first hive manipulations. This tends to be for making nucs. I typically replace the frames used for building nucs with new frames with blank foundation. I find that this gives the bees a bit more space and encourages comb building. Because I’m relentless on disposing of old comb, getting new comb built is a high priority for me and I feel that it helps the bees.
The first hive inspection on a day in late February when the weather allows. It is usually a quick check to see if there is any brood and the status of food and pollen stores. January has been an unseasonably cold month and so far February has not been much better. It is possible that smaller clusters could not get to the stores and either died or can be saved by moving frames with honey into a better position. All my hives have a bit of protein patty on the top but it is of no used when the bees can’t break cluster.
Ordering queens tends to be around the last of February or first week of March. This year I plan to replace all the queens. Any queens that look good may go into a queen castle. Any weak queens will be culled. I’ve never replaced all the queens but there is a growing voice that queen failure due to disease, mite treatment damage, aging and so on, is a leading cause of hive loss. There are factors I can’t control (pesticides in the environment is the big one) but many other issues are controllable by the beekeeper.
I add pollen feeders to the bee yard in March. I’ve always looked for maple tree and dandelion bloom as the first source of natural pollen. Because the daytime temperatures can rise and fall unpredictably and frost can knock out the first pollen sources, I like to feed protein supplement outside of the hives. Because small hive beetles are problematic for me and protein patties are a small hive beetle food source, I remove any unused protein patties from the hives.
The 2018 EAS conference is in Virginia this year. A full week of bees and beekeepers! It doesn’t get any better. Let’s go learn!
Installing swarm catch boxes early is another 2018 plan. Last year’s swarm catch boxes were reasonable productive. Free bees are always welcome and the boxes are ready.
Planning the 2018 training yard is the big project for me. What was accomplished the first year was truly amazing. Bee Culture magazine and An Beachaire (The Irish Beekeeper) published both an article about the training yard. It was an honor to be considered worthy of recognition by two well regarded beekeeping magazines. A follow up article for 2018 is very possible.
Last year, people enjoyed what the training yard offered – new beekeeping training starting with package installing. At last check all four of the hives were still alive so nuc production, swarm capture, chunk comb production, queen control and replacement, using a 3 section queen castle for banking queens and routine brood condition assessment are some of the planned activities. I plan to shift to more advanced second year activities as the local club again is supplying the basic introduction training.
Bring it on!