Continuing my resolution to be a better beekeeper and bee steward, 2014 marks my fourth season of bee herding and while earning my Apprentice Badge adds a nice bit of flare, beekeeping and stewarding is more about doing than passing a test, a lot like life and career …. There is no GPA in the hives, its pass or pass with “opportunity” for improvement. I do not think you can really fail. The “In the Hive” tasks for early early or still winter frankly for many (ok – how about February – March-ish) are still mainly out of the hive, but important nonetheless.
Worker Bee Tasks
- Keep entrance clear of debris, snow, dead bees…
- Inspect the hive if there is an unseasonably warm day. Good time to assess food stores, tell if the queen is starting to lay a lot and prepare to maybe feed or add a box. Be quick though.
- If it snows, you can also tell how the hive is doing by watching how the snow melts on the lid. Melt first in the center before it melts elsewhere? Probably means a good cluster. Evenly melts along with all the other snow. Might mean a weak cluster.
- Get ready for your pollinator friendly garden, order seeds and think about some cool weather starts indoors.
Queen Bee Ideas
- By now you should have ordered your package bees. If not, it is probably not too late but will take more legwork and probably do-re-mi on your part. For 2014, I am only going to run two hives, my two Langstroth. I have concluded my top bar hive design is suboptimal and I want to take some time to research and revitalize for 2015. It is hard to tell if both my hives will make it, so I am going to gamble and just order one package of bees.
- Set up your journal or hive tracking plan. I am going to use http://www.beetight.com this year vs. handwriting.
- Make a honey recipe. Here are just a few simple ways I have used honey in recipes. Sky is the limit.
- Read a good novel with some bee or honey influences. This month, I recommend The Zookeeper’s wife, not for its abundance of bee references but for the interesting discovery of bees and Nazi rule.
- Study and take your state’s apprentice bee keeper exam. Here is the link for Washington.
- Attend your local beekeeping organization meeting. They will likely be doing a lot of education and prepping for the upcoming busy season.
- Play beekeeping roulette. Flip through your beekeeping texts and chose random passages. My favorite book for this? ABC and XYZ of Bee Culture 1975. Check out this great illustration on the evolution of hives in America: more abodes likely than homes and most would definitely not pass the removable frame requirement. Beautiful creations however. I wonder what a history of hive designs will look like in 2075?
Just for fun
- Download some Bee Apps. Smart phone plus propolis is not a good idea, but hey it’s still pretty chilly and you aren’t fiddling in the hives much.
- Warning – some of these apps are time sucking games of mindlessness! Um, it is all about raising awareness, I mean….
- Here is a review of some apps that I have tried out…
Remember that your geographical location will influence much of your hive management techniques, so keep that in mind when researching. Connect with a local group or beekeeper. I keep bees in Seattle, which seems to be damp and soggy and not too cold this time of year, compared to say the Midwest, where the bees are still experiencing below freezing weather, with some sporadically warmer days.