Sounds a little bit cheesy but before winter comes to an end, beekeepers need to be preparing their hives for spring. One of the first major steps is emergency feeding! FEED, FEED, FEED!! We cannot stress this enough. Your hives will have depleted their honey stores and will likely starve if they are not provided a food supply.
Over the course of winter, a hive will consume 50 to 60 pounds of honey or more. Beekeepers always wonder how their hives could starve with plenty of frames filled with honey.The cold temperatures limit the bee’s movement throughout the hive. Bees will not be able to break from the cluster in order to feed from frames on the outer edge of the super; therefore, they will need a food supply that is at the cluster. Fondant and Candy are two great sources of solid feed (will also reduce hive moisture) that can be placed above the cluster of bees. With the heat the bees produce and the moisture in the hive, bees are able to eat from this feed with no problem. They will need a constant food source on the hive until they are able to sustain themselves.
Pull out the equipment that you have stored over winter. Do you have any wax moth damage that needs to be replaced? Are you going to have enough supers to add on during the honey flow? Are you prepared to capture a hive that may swarm? Start planning for the year to come and have your equipment ready for it.
Wax Moth is a major problem for equipment that was not stored properly. Wax Moth are corrosive and will lay their eggs on the frames. The larvae will feed off the wax and lay webbing throughout the frame, destroying the comb. If the damage is significant enough the bees will not be able to clean the comb and the foundation will need to be replaced. For further information on Wax Moth, please refer to the Disease and Pests Section.
Last year you may have been able to add a honey super, extract the honey, and stored the super over winter. You have that super ready to add on once the nectar flow begins. During your hives first year, they were just starting out and were not as strong as they are now. Don't you think they will be able to store more then just one honey super this year? Be ready to add on those additional supers when they need it.
As your bees come out of winter, your queen will be ramping up her production as nectar begins flowing into the hive. They will be growing in population fast and may have the tendency to swarm. Those will be your bees flying off! Have the equipment you need handy in order to retrieve them. This may include a NUC setup with pheromone lure inside to attract the swarm or it may require more hands on with a Hipps Swarm Retriever. Don't miss out on recovering your bees.
As the nectar flow begins, your queen will be begin laying at her max. This means that the Varroa Mite levels will increase. There are two widely used methods to assess the mite levels in your hive.
Corex Sheet.This is a sheet which slides under a screened bottom board. Spray the corex sheet with a cooking oil so when the mites fall from the hive they stick to the sheet and can then be counted. Insert the sheet for 3 days and then remove it to count the mites. Once you have a total, divide it by 3 to get the average mite drop in a 24 hour period.
Sugar Shake. Place a few table spoons of powdered sugar in a mason jar and gently "slosh" some bees (about ½ cup) around ensuring they are fully coated. Replace the lid with #8 hardware cloth and the sugar will dislodge the mites allowing them to fall through the screen. Below is a very general guide to determine if the colony should be treated. However, the prevailing thought is if you have a window of opportunity to treat your colony you should treat.
|Sticky Board||5-10 mites||50-60 mites|
|Sugar Shake||3-4 mites||10-12 mites|
For more information on the Varroa Mite and different treatments, please visit Varroa Mites
Last year you had so much fun you want to expand your hives or your hives may not have been as successful and you lost a few over winter. Either way, you need more bees! Now is the time to place your orders for Packages or NUCs. Find a reputable supplier and don't forget to have your hive setup for when the bees come.