March in the Apiary

by Kathy Cox

Every day I check the weather report hoping for better weather. I’m sure the bees are thinking the same thing! Because the Winter bees are dying off, they need more bodies in the hive to deal with the cold weather. The queen should be laying now, however, she lays only a small patch of brood to start. The bees in the hive are old. They are probably 4 months old or older. There are only a few who produce royal jelly for the queen and only a few who act as nurse bees feeding the brood. In the spring and summer, her brood nest will be wall to wall on many frames. Now, it may only be a few inches on one frame. She will expand the nest once those bees hatch in 21 days. By then there will be more 5–15-day old bees to feed her royal jelly and more nurse bees to feed the upcoming brood. The brood nest grows exponentially from there on until the colony is up to speed.

Once those early bees graduate from house bees to foragers, you will see ORIENTATION FLIGHTS (Google). The house bees have never flown, except out the front outside of the hive to poop and they go right back in. The orientation flights take place over about 3 days. Newbees often think it looks like they are getting ready to swarm. But they are just memorizing the look of their hive on day one. They back off from the hive and hover in front of it, sometime hundreds at a time when the colonies have brooded up. On day two they hover further away and view the trees and landmarks for their hive. On the third day they fly a bit around the hive, exercising their wings in preparation for a forage the following days. After that, they watch for the waggle dance (Google) inside the colony from the experienced foragers and follow the directions to sweet nectar.

March is a month when bee colonies can starve. Don’t stop feeding dry sugar, either by the Mountain Camp Method (Google) or on top of the inner cover. In addition, it is time to change the patties from Winter to regular. The regular patties are made with more protein, which is not readily available until the weather is better and pollen is plentiful. And, by now any bee bread (Google) is long gone having been eaten up over the winter.

Watch for drone eggs to be laid this month. You will usually find them on the edges, top and bottom. Remember it is not time to even think about doing splits until those drones are hatched and have a couple of weeks to mature and visit the DCA (Google) drone congregation area. Only then are there successful virgin mating flights.

If you haven’t ordered equipment, Mann Lake Bees still has an 11% off sale. Orders over $100 are shipped free, usually within 2 days. Be sure to paint a couple of weeks before you place bees inside. It needs to air out. Remember to place hives facing south and in a permanent location. The rule of thumb is you can only move bees two feet or two miles, otherwise they fly back to the old location.

For those who have kept bees, it is time to review what has worked and what has not. Read about how to correct mistakes. Remember you usually cannot see mites on the tops of bees. The mites hide in the plates on the underside. I am constantly told by beekeepers who have not treated, who have lost their bees, that they never SAW mites on their bees.

New 2022 Bee catalogs are available for free. Check Mann Lake Bees, Dadant and others.

There is still plenty of time to read about what to do in your first year as a beekeeper. There are hard statistics that after the second year there is a dropout of 50% of beekeepers. You cannot succeed as a

“beehaver” only as a beekeeper. We have room still in the beginning beekeeping class on March 26 & 27, with Tracy Klein. Check out the calendar at and register soon.

Don’t forget to register your hives with the Agriculture Department. The link is on the PSBA website.

Bee sure to come to our monthly meeting on the 22nd of March. Come at 6:30pm for a beginner’s meeting. And stay for our special presentation by Randy Oliver of Scientific Beekeeping. Randy always brings us wonderful information.

Until next month, bee kind.

Kathy Cox

Master Beekeeper U of Montana

VP, Education Chair, Neighborhood Captain