FEBRUARY-MARCH ’24 in the Apiary

Well, Punxsutawney Phil didn’t see his shadow. So spring is coming early??? I’m more than ready for warmer weather, but not ready with all the cleaning, scraping and repair of bee equipment. So, let’s all prepare! Clean and scrape your equipment. Then give the tired-looking boxes, etc. a new coat of paint. Remember that it needs to air out for 2 weeks before introducing your bees.
Our zoom class went well the beginning of the month. There is a second in person class on March 16th. It has been sold out for quite a while. Our club is lucky that both teachers are Master Beekeepers.
It is time to order new equipment. Like what? How about robbing screens that will save the girls when July rolls around and the yellow jackets are threatening to ruin the hives. Do you know it only takes 2 hours for them to tear the hive apart, so the remaining live bees abscond, which is when bees leave the hive entirely, never to return. Don’t forget the Varroa EZ Check. Why, because we ALL need to be testing for Varroa. I have had new beekeepers say, “but I don’t want to kill 300 bees!”  I say, “kill 300 today or 30,000+ will die later. Make sure to order regular pollen patties that have 13% protein, which the bees need to keep the eggs and pupae healthy. How about picking up extra hive tools? I lose one every season. I found one that had fallen into a hive, when I was taking apart a dead out! You need a moisture quilt or a moisture board for winter. Get one now before the rush. Green drone frames are great for trapping mites in the drone cells. Just remember to pull the frame as soon as the cells are capped off, otherwise you may have a mite bomb. Freeze the frame for 48 hours and give it back to the hive. The bees will clean out the dead and the queen will lay in the cells again.
I have written about the difference between nucs and packages. While packages are cheaper, you get what you pay for. Nucs build up very fast, because all the bees and queen are all related. The queen is their queen and there are frames that have been drawn out and are full of soon to hatch adult bees.
It takes time to become a beekeeper. Seasons 3-5 get much better, especially if you are learning from your mistakes. Like don’t spend 45 minutes in a hive inspection. You don’t need to find the queen. If you see eggs, she has been there in the last 3 days. You should be reading bee books every winter. Watch YouTube videos. Be committed and learn to think on your feet. You have a new relationship with the weather. Be aware of the temperature and rainfall. Weekends aren’t always good for beekeeping. It often takes more time preparing for the inspection than the inspection itself. Gather the syrup, pollen patties, smoker fuel and your logbook before you go to the apiary. Light the smoker even if you don’t use it. Do not over smoke the bees. They must remove the smell. And it makes them mad. If you smoke a bit under the inner cover, wait a few minutes before opening the hive. It takes a few minutes for the bees to go down and eat up honey in preparation for leaving the hive. They are thinking there is a forest fire, and they need to get the groceries in preparation for finding a safe new place.
Don’t forget to clean off the bottom boards. It may be right to reverse the boxes. Just don’t split the brood. If the bottom box is empty of any brood, you can put it on top of the brood in the second or third box.
Try to not wear leather gloves but wear one or two layers of medical gloves. You can’t feel bees with those thick leather gloves. With the lighter ones, you can. Take a notebook to log what you see. There are forms online, but you can forget quickly what you just observed.
In the spring, nothing really can happen until the queen starts laying drones. Are you aware that the bees kick the drones out in the fall, so they don’t waste precious food on them. Now when you see those bullet cells, the drones will soon be emerged and ready a week or so later to go on mating flights. When drones fly you can split your hive. Look at the bottom of the second box for swarm cells. (I once split a hive 6 times, because there were ample frames and queen cells!) Note: even first year queens can swarm. The peanut shell-like queen cells hang down from the bottom of the second box. I have seen 20+ swarm cells in one box.
How many boxes do you need and when do you put them on? If you are using deeps, you have 2 choices. One deep and one medium make up the brood area. You can also use 2 deeps for the brood nest. In addition, you will need 3 mediums for the nectar and pollen storage. Nectar can take 3 times as much space as honey. Bees dry the nectar down to 17% moisture so it doesn’t ferment. The bees also move it around. Sometimes they move it into the brood area. If you are using mediums, you need 3 mediums for the brood and 3 for the nectar storage. How do you know when your nuc needs another box? Once the 10 frames are 70% worked on, it is time to add a box. Never give too much space too early. Repeat this with each addition.
For you Intermediate beeks, we will have some classes for you a little later in the season. If you are interested in the splits class, please send me a text at 206-465-1464. Learning how to split makes you a sustainable beekeeper. Everyone should plan to take this class in their second year.
NOTE: the internet is full of videos. Not all can be believed. Have a couple of books so you can make sure what you are being told is good information.
Kathy Cox    Master Beekeeper U of Montana
Website: Facebook.com/seattlehoneybees
Text: 206-465-1464