Monday, March 8, 2021

March Adventures in the Apiary

 

A Beekeeper’s guide to a New Season

When I was out on one of my usual walks today, it suddenly hit me: the birds are chirping, the sun feels warmer, and these tiny green buds opened on my apple and cherry trees. March is perhaps that time of the year when Mother Nature hasn’t quite decided what she wants to do next, the weather is unpredictable and beekeepers’ to-do lists largely depend on it. This year is no exception.

While climate change has put beekeepers through quite the turmoil during the past few years, I’ve always found ways to adapt my routine to weather’s fickle temperament. This month is certainly busier than February! Having warmer days recently, my honey bees started taking flights and so I’ve decided to have quick look inside my hives.


Just before I began my work, I kept wondering “What if didn’t feed my bees enough and the last cold snap weakened the colonies?”. As you all know, March is the month when the queen is laying enormous amounts of eggs and that brood requires a lot of food to fully develop. This increase in population can mean 2 things: the hive can starve before the main nectar flow starts or the bees feel crowded and decide to swarm.

Neither outcome calmed my nerves and the pressure of having to keep my inspections brief (30 seconds or less) didn’t help either, but luckily, I had Apiary Book by my side.

As always, Apiary Book was open on my smartphone and the voice assistant ready to record my notes on what I saw inside the hive. I particularly like this smart feature because, during inspections, I never have my hands free to actually type in my observations, yet I can record everything I see about the bees, my queen, the honey etc. It’s so easy and practical that I basically never start my work in the apiary without it.

So, there I was all suited up, smartphone on my side, looking inside my first hive, when I felt my worries disappear. The colony was intact, there was a significant amount of brood laid, and some of the food I had left 10 days earlier was still there, but needed to be supplemented soon. Lesson learned: Don't be caught off guard and ensure that your bees have plenty to eat, as March is the month when starvation is at its highest possibility.

In Spring, I personally prefer using honey frames that I preserved from the year before, to which I usually add a protein patty. Of course, some beekeepers might choose sugar syrup to feed their colonies, if the weather allows it and it’s warmer during the day (above 8-10 Celsius degrees). Our advice: to stimulate the queen to lay eggs, uncap honey frames you’ve kept over the winter and place them in your hives. Replace syrup with honey frames and you’re bound to see better results! 

During the next days, I’ll continue feeding my bees just the right amounts - tracking this in my Feeding section of Apiary Book - just until we have the first bloom and there’s a steady source of nectar naturally for my bees.

Meanwhile, I’ve prepared a short March Checklist to help you get through this month, but please remember to also get in touch with other local beekeepers and learn what they are doing.

MARCH Checklist

ü  Order nucs, packages, hives and queens (if you haven’t already)

ü  Check the hive food stores and supplement with pollen substitutes for rapid hive growth

ü  Check the status of the colony

ü  Check each hives entrance for blockage

ü  Re-check plans for new colonies, re-queening or other related up-front operations

ü  Make sure all equipment is ready and painted for bees

Happy Beekeeping!

Friday, February 12, 2021

Preparing for the New Beekeeping Season

 

Beekeepers all over the world prepare for the new season at different times and follow a calendar rhythm with beekeeping tasks divided by season. Some of us live in warmer climates and will be starting spring preparations sooner, all the while others still have freezing temperatures and no end in sight for winter.

Whatever the case may be with you, there’s a general understanding of what spring preparations look like and, today, we will be going through some of the most important ones. And remember, you should always supplement any general advice on seasonal beekeeping activity with information specific to your region and location.



ü  Check Beekeeping Inventory & Supplies

Late winter is perhaps the best time to plan ahead for the next 6 months or so. If you don’t keep an inventory of the necessary beekeeping equipment, this is the moment to start it and you will be thankful for it later too. It’s extremely important that you stay on top of this particular task, as it will save you time in the long-run. Just think of it this way: wouldn’t you rather focus on daily seasonal activities, especially during the busiest times of the year, rather than worry about shortage of wax, artificial honeycombs, new hives, bee treatments and so on?

The following items might seem trivial, but they are precisely what beekeepers can’t do without:

-        facial mesh and body suit – to protect yourself from insect bites and bee stings,

-        smokers - needed to calm the bees,

-        chisel – to simplify your work,

-        new frames – 8-12 frames for every hive. It’s vital to consider the development and expansion of bee families.

-        spare hives – in the future they will be needed for cuttings, landing swarms, or at least as a trap,

-        electrical equipment like heaters, electron plowers and even an electric drive for the honey extractor with a control unit.

ü  Beehives Inspection & Changes

Winter is a quiet season for the bees. They will stay in the hive and live off their food stores and need not be disturbed. By February, check that the bees have enough food. This downtime gives you the chance to prepare your equipment for the rush of activity in the spring and work on other projects.

Spring is the time for colony expansion and swarming. Around March the queen lays eggs and the hive is busy producing food to the new brood. Making sure that everything goes according to plan means keeping a close eye on your hives and checking that the bees have enough food until the flowers bloom. Furthermore, an inspection is required to determine if there’s a solid brood pattern. If you suspect that the queen died, you will need to replace her.

Another good advice is to position an empty hive or two in case some of the bees swarm and are looking for new homes. If you don't do this, you could lose bees that travel elsewhere.

ü  Establish Harvesting Calendar

Creating a beekeeper’s calendar can help you plan ahead for a successful year of keeping bees, but you may need to shift the dates later on, according to current weather patterns. However, no matter where you are or what the local forecast holds, knowing what you’ll harvest for the coming months is invaluable information.

We recommend that you join a local beekeeping association or club as it is one of the best ways to learn about the particulars of beekeeping for your region. Yet an easier and faster way would be to install Apiary Book – an app that is dedicated to your beekeeping needs. It keeps track of your inventory and beehives, you can set up your own flower blooming calendar, manage daily to do lists, and amazingly, it connects you with experienced beekeepers who can give you advice when you need it most! Follow the link to install or create an account: https://wj48y.app.goo.gl/BlogApiaryBook