The hardest time for beekeeping

As a small scale hobby beekeeper, December through February is the slowest time of the beekeeping cycle. There are not many days that hives can be checked – maybe one or two each month when bees are flying. I’m limited to what can be done to resolve problems, mostly just feeding as required.  

I just ordered frames and foundation, taking advantage of the discounts that bee equipment supply companies offer. I am probably overly aggressive with frame rotation; some have expressed their opinion on this one. I like to have plenty of new frames with foundation ready as needed. Because of my obsessing with frame rotation (4 years is old), building new frames takes several weekends.

I will be teaching hands on nuc production classes starting in February of 2020. The goal is to encourage second year beekeepers to add nucs into their beekeeping experience. Nucs that were made in midsummer of 2019 are currently doing well and could be the source for early spring nucs available for sale, increases or replacement.  I need to gather the class room documentation and confirm conference room availability. A few days here and there should be all that is needed.

As a part of the nuc classes, I’ve been searching for plans for 5 frame medium plywood boxes and have had no success. All plans appear to be deep frame design laid out on sheets of plywood. I guess I need to dust off the drawing board and lay out my own. The drawing and the construction will likely take several weekends with painting adding additional weekends.

Cleaning, repairing and painting equipment is on my list of winter weekend projects. I try to keep up with equipment maintenance as required so I can walk through my bee room. Because painting is not high on my list of enjoyable activities it tends to get put off. Maybe combined with the nuc painting will be the better plan. One or two weekends should cover painting.

Queen ordering is always a challenge.  The supplier I used won’t accept small orders until late winter so the challenge is to balance queen purchases against order acceptance. To some extent that is why I make summer nucs, purchased queens are readily available by late June and into July and I can use swarm cells to augment and limit what I purchase mid-summer. Also by July swarming is ending so queen cell splits are slowing down.

So I’ve got December, January and half of February to get ready for beekeeping 2020. That would be around 10 weekends to get all this done. Guess I’d better get started finding a path through the bee room. The first day of winter is December 21st, after that more daylight.

Winter beekeeping responsibilities sure keep me busy!