I find using individual record sheets for each hive very helpful in that I can quickly see the entire hive’s history and then archive the sheets each year for reference. I use a 3 ring notebook with tab dividers separating each hive sheet. The hive sheets are printed on standard letter size card stock available at office supply stores. I use cattle ear tags screwed to the back of the bottom board to number the hives and each hive sheet has the corresponding hive number.
I replace frames after 3 or 4 years. They get dark with cocoon buildup and may carry disease. It is easy and affordable bee care.
Winter is usually too cold for feeding sugar syrup as there are too few days when the bees are able to move into the feeder. For several years I’ve used candy boards on my 5 frame over winter nucs. I have found that the protein supplement in the boards have helped the nucs. This year I’m adding candy boards to all the hives for two main reasons. The first so I can fed a protein supplement starting in late January and secondly to give the bees an additional source of food if they use more stores than is in the hive. If there is extra sugar when spring feeding starts I simply use it to make syrup. I have found that there is very little protein suppliant left by spring.
“Three black frames and last year’s queen is not a nuc!” Purchasing a Nuc is thought to be a better way to obtain a colony of bees. A quality nuc is very strong and can be examined for quality before the purchase is made. Issues such a queen productivity, mite and small hive beetle infestation, quality of comb, amount and pattern of brood all are very important when paying a premium price for bees. This check sheet lists the major criteria that should be considered important questions when paying a premium for a nuc.
Making spring or early summer nucs is a easy way to increase hive numbers, boost production, replace dead hives or add to the cash flow. It is easy to do and requires very little extra equipment. The use of swarm cells is the almost free way to make nucs and has the added bonus or helping reduce Spring swarming. One additional benefit is that the break in brood helps with mite control. There is no good reason not to make nucs for your bee yard..
Increasing day length and warming weather go together to increase brood rearing. When there is no nectar or pollen available in early spring and the bees are flying the winter stores can deplete very quickly. I use this day length chart to determine several early Spring activities such as checking for brood, feeding syrup, candy and protein, adding empty frames to the brood chamber, removing the lowest super and adding honey supers. Using the chart, you can see that day lengths increase by several hours from the beginning January to the end of February. I have found that brood rearing starts to increase by mid to late February. I plan to start spring feeding in February so that the hives will be boosted up a bit.
This Northern Virginia Honeybee Annual Cycle is a list by month of what to look for and why. Adjust as needed for the location of your bees. There are also some interesting links.
How Much Can You Tell Without opening the hive? Spending a few minutes watching the bees as they enter and exit the hive can tell the beekeeper a lot.
I find it helpful to have a 12 month calendar with me in the 3 ring record notebook I use for hive record keeping.