Today, my father-in-law broke his morning record and built 42 deep and medium supers. He hammered 1004 nails!
Emergency feeding is just that...an emergency. So do whatever it takes to get some sugar in the hive. Dry sugar will work but only if the bees have warm enough days to fly out for water. There may not be many days warm enough in northern states for dry sugar feedings or hard candy feedings. Sometimes I have soaked sponges in heavy sugar water and jammed the sponge between the frames near the cluster. You can also place a plastic zip-lock bag full of sugar water directly over the cluster and poke a few holes on the top of the bag or make a slit in the bag. Do anything you can think of...after all it is better than letting the hive starve to death. Of course, if you have frames of honey available, that's the best way to feed them, but most of us have sold all our honey by now.
MARCH AND THE BEES: If the hive was low on honey going into winter, then March is the month they may starve out. They have probably moved all the way up in the hive and their overall population is very low due to normal die-outs throughout the winter. The bees are going to be flying more in March, and they will find pollen even in northern states. The queen will start laying much more in March. The entire hive will begin to return to an almost normal operation now that winter is almost over. There will be cold snaps, but the bees will do fine as they begin to expand.
MARCH AND THE BEEKEEPER: Continue emergency feeding if needed, and place entrance or top feeders on the hive and feed 1:1 sugar water, one part sugar and one part water. Continue with the pollen patty feedings.
Inspect your hive! March will provide you with a few days when the temperature will rise to 50 degrees or higher. At this temperature you can look in the hive and pull out a few frames. Keep in mind that since there is not a heavy nectar flow, and since it is cooler, the bees might be a bit more aggressive. I am stung more during these cold inspections than the rest of the year. So wear protective gear.
March is a great month to start feeding the pollen patties. If you don't make your own patties, we sell the pre-made pollen patties which can be placed right in the hive. Pollen patties truly do jump start the hive. I highly recommend that you place a pollen patties in your hives in March.
The bottom board will probably be filled with dead, winter bees. They did their job, so play "Taps", salute them, and toss them in the yard for the mice and birds to enjoy. Serve your mice an eviction notice.
You'll be able to assess how many of your colonies have died out over the winter. Clean out these boxes and freeze the comb if you can. This will prevent the spread of wax moths. This link provides information on how to freeze your combs and for how long.
March is our busiest month in hive equipment and bee sales. Everyone calls and wants their hive yesterday! Please do us a big favor and order your hives in January.
APRIL AND THE BEES: Now the bees are almost fully operational. There will still be a few cold snaps, especially in early April, but by the last two weeks, the weather is good for bees to rapidly expand and to even start bringing in more and more nectar and pollen. The queen is laying well now. The hive is expanding.
APRIL AND THE BEEKEEPING: Keep feeding! Feeding helps the bees build up. No supers are on your hive yet, so their intake of sugar is not going into your honey product. You are just feeding to help the hive off to a great start. Keep the pollen patties on top too. Remove entrance reducers.
April can be cold and wet which means that your bees may have limited opportunities to fly out for food. So you must continue to inspect the hive to be sure they have enough food stores. Also, inspect your hive for any abnormalities. You want to see a solid brood laying pattern from your queen. If not, consider replacing her now!
Reverse your brood chambers! This is extremely important as it gives more space for the queen to lay. Simply take the top deep brood chamber and place it on the bottom board and place the one that was on the bottom on top.
If your bees are no longer taking the sugar feeding, discontinue, put supers on, as the bees will now begin to collect dandelion nectar and nectar from Maple trees, Locust trees and other early Spring flowering plants and trees.
This is a great time to equalize your hives. You may have to combine weak hives with strong ones. Even though I know better, every year I seem to become too compassionate toward a struggling hive, and try to nurse them back to health. Last year, I successfully did just that with one hive, but another hive bit the dust in September after I nursed them along all year. It is usually not worth it. It is costly to spend too much time on a struggling hive. It takes money and time to requeen the hive and to continue to work it. It would be far better to combine it to another hive if it is disease and pest free. After all, a weak hive is an invitation for pests and disease. Strong hives chase away pests and disease. So, your weak hive could spread disease to all your other hives. Don't take the chance. Keep your hives strong.
MAY AND THE BEES: Bees are in full operation now that it is May. You can stop feeding strong hives now because they are bringing in lots of nectar and pollen. The hive is expanding rapidly. The brood chambers are filling up fast and becoming crowded and congested.
MAY AND THE BEEKEEPER: RED ALERT!! BEES SWARM IN MAYYou will have to implement a swarm control strategy. Keep in mind that bees swarm as a way of multiplying. It is not a sign of being a poor beekeeper. However, there are some important steps to implement to try to prevent swarming. Review the link above. Keep in mind that you must provide room for your hive to expand. And, you should put on honey supers in May. Put on as many as you'd like. I think it is good practice to have a minimum of two honey supers on all hives during the nectar season. Three or four supers are even better. Don't wait to add your supers or you may miss particular nectar flows. Get all supers on by May 1st!
Consider having an extra, empty hive on hand so you'll be able to capture a swarm. You will want to capture your own swarms or you will probably receive phone calls once your neighbors learn you are a beekeeper. We receive several calls each week all Spring and Summer.
David & Sheri Burns