Beekeeping Year

THE BEEKEEPER’S YEAR

This is a suggested checklist of activities for the beekeeper. Note that weather, climate, neighborhood and even the type of bees you have will influence such activities. The list gives you an overview of what’s going on each month in the hive. It also suggests some important tasks for the beekeeper, and provides a rough estimate of the amount of time you might spend with your bees during a given month. Check this site frequently for additional detail and special notes.

January

The Bees, The queen is surrounded by thousand of her workers. She is in the midst of their winter cluster. There is little activity except on a warm day (about 45-50 degrees) when the workers will take the opportunity to make cleansing flights. There are no drones in the hive, but some worker brood will begin to appear in the hive. The bees will consume about 25 pounds of stored honey this month.

The Beekeeper, Little work is required from you at the hives. If there is heavy snow, make certain the entrance to the hive is cleared to allow for proper ventilation. This is a great time to catch up on your reading about bees, attend bee club meetings, and build and repair equipment for next season. Order package bees (if needed) from a reputable supplier.

Time Spent. Estimate less than an hour.

February

The Bees, The queen, still cozy in the cluster, will begin to lay a few more eggs each day. It is still “females only” in the hive. Workers will take cleansing flights on mild days. The bees will consume about 25 pounds of honey this month.

The Beekeeper, There is not too much to do this month. Attend those bee club meetings. Read. Attend bee club meetings, and get your equipment ready for spring.

Time Spent. Estimate less than one hour.

March

The Bees, This is the month when colonies can die of starvation. However, if you fed them plenty of sugar syrup in the autumn this should not happen. With the days growing longer, the queen steadily increases her rate of egg laying. More brood means more food consumed. The drones begin to appear. The bees will continue to consume honey stores.

The Beekeeper, Early in the month, on a nice mild day, and when there is no wind and bees are flying; you can have a quick peek inside your hive. It’s best not to remove the frames. Just have a look-see under the cover. If you do not see any sealed honey in the top frames, you may need to begin some emergency feeding. But remember, once you start, you should not stop until they are bringing in their own food supplies. Now is also the time to add Apistan strips (leave in the hive for 45 days).

Time Spent. Estimate 2 hours this month.

April

The Bees, The weather begins to improve, and the early blossoms begin to appear. The bees begin to bring pollen into the hive. The queen is busily laying eggs, and the population is growing fast. The drones will begin to appear.

The Beekeeper, on a warm and still day do your first comprehensive inspection.

Can you find evidence of the queen? Are there plenty of eggs and brood? Is there a nice pattern to her egg laying? Later in the month, on a very mild and windless day, you should consider reversing the hive deeps. This will allow for a better distribution of brood, and stimulate the growth of the colony. You can begin to feed the hive medicated syrup. Also add Menthol (as mite control).

Time Spent, Estimate 3 hours.

May

The Bees, Now the activity really starts hopping. The nectar and pollen should begin to come into the hive thick and fast. The queen will be reaching her greatest rate of egg laying. The hive should be bursting with activity.

The Beekeeper, You can remove your Apistan strips (if they have been in the hive for 45 days). Also remove the menthol. Add a queen excluder, and place honey supers on top of the top deep. Watch out for swarming. Inspect the hive weekly. Attend bee club meetings and workshops.

Time Spent. Estimate 4-5 hours this month.

June

The Bees, Unswarmed colonies will be boiling with bees. The queen’s rate of egg laying may drop a bit this month. The main honey flow should happen this month.

The Beekeeper, Inspect the hive weekly to make certain the hive is healthy and the queen is present. Add honey supers as needed. Keep up swarm inspections. Attend bee club meetings and workshops.

Time Spent. Estimate 4-5 hours.

July

The Bees, if the weather is good, the nectar flow may continue this month. On hot and humid nights, you may see a huge curtain of bees cooling themselves on the exterior of the hive.

The Beekeeper, Continue inspections to assure the health of your colony. Add more honey supers if needed. Keep your fingers crossed in anticipation of a great honey harvest.

Time Spent. Estimate 2-3 hours.

August

The Bees, The colony’s growth is diminishing. Drones are still around, but outside activity begins to slow down as the nectar flow slows.

The Beekeeper, No more chance of swarming. Watch for honey robbing by wasps or other bees, There is not too much for you to do this month.  Have a little holiday.

Time Spent. Estimate about an hour or two.

September

The Bees, The drones may begin to disappear this month. The hive population is dropping. The queen’s her egg laying is dramatically reduced.

The Beekeeper, Harvest your honey crop. Remember to leave the colony with at least 60 pounds of honey for winter. Check for the queen’s presence. Feed and medicate towards the end of the month (only the first 2 gallons is medicated). Add Apistan strips (strips stay in the hive for 42 days} Also add menthol for mite control. Continue feeding until the bees will take no more syrup.  Attend bee club meetings.

Time Spent. Estimate 2-3 hours.

October

The Bees, Not much activity from the bees.  They are hunkering down for the winter.

The Beekeeper, Watch out for robbing.  Install inner cover wedges for ventilation. Install mouse guards at entrance of hive. Place insulate boards under hive cover to help keep colony dry. Setup a wind break if necessary. Finish winter feeding. Don’t  forget to remove Apistan strips (assuming they have been in for 42 days) Attend bee club meetings. 

Time Spent. Estimate 2 hours.

November

The Bees, Evan less activity this month.  The cold weather will send them into cluster.

The Beekeeper, Store your equipment away for the winter.  Attend bee club meetings.

Time Spent. About one hour this month.

December

The Bees, The bees are in a tight cluster.  No peeking.

The Beekeeper, there’s nothing you can do with the bees.  Read a good book on beekeeping, and enjoy the holidays!

Time Spent, None.



7 comments to Beekeeping Year

  • Mary Helminski

    As a new bee keepers, my sister Elaine and I are glad we were directed to this site. This is our first year bee keeping. We obtained a couple of already in progress hives and moved them to our property. For us this is a little different since we did not start from step one. The bee keeping year information on this site is awesome and will be a great guide for us. We have connected with a few local bee keepers and found that they are more than happy to give us some good advice. We are building our bee equipment inventory, if anyone knows of a bee keeper that is selling used equipment we are interested. Thank you, Mary and Elaine

  • Is it too late to purchase bees and start a new hive? Our hives are ready to go
    but we had an unexpected set back in that the farm we were to purchase from lost
    all of their bees…

  • Stephen Tilmann

    Barb,
    See our reply to Susan’s comment that we made on June 24 (2013) below. Bottom line is too late for packaged bees and you might find a nuc. even if you do get a colony established, don’t expect to harvest any honey this year as the bees will probably need all they can make to get through the winter. We have passed the summer solstice which means that the bees are basically on a down hill run from here out.

    Your best bet is to start planning for next year.
    Steve Tilmann, Treasurer
    Michigan Beekeepers’ Association

  • could you tell me the pound – gallon ratio of sugar to water for the feeding. I have seen many “recipes”
    One says 16 pounds of sugar to 1 gallon of water for the 2-1 ratio Fall feeding.
    Would you rec. putting any essential oils in for mite control?
    Thanks,
    Robbyn

  • Stephen Tilmann

    Robbyn,
    A 1:1 sugar:water ratio (by weight) is used for feeding. A 2:1 ratio is used for stimulation feeding and in the fall if your hive is light and needs help. In many parts of Michigan this year (2013), hive are light because of a lack of rain. So it may be a good idea to feed (a 2:1 syrup). You will have to look at your hive(s) and decide. Adding essential oils to feed may be counter productive, but some beekeepers might disagree with this. Fall requeening is a good way to help control mites (fall requeening causes a break in the brood cycle upon which the mite rely). As is sugar dusting or treatment with other mite control chems.

  • Scott McNamara

    I am new to bee keeping in the northern latitudes (cedar, mi) originally from Texas. I never had to “overwinter” hives in continuous sub freezing temps. I am looking for recommendations for hive treatments. Other than making certain there is plenty of honey stores in the hive what are other recommendations. I have heard everything from wrapping the hives with tar paper to wind proof to moving the hives into my barn. I would appreciate any and all suggestions. Thank you

  • Stephen Tilmann

    Scott,
    Number 1 guide: have healthy bees going into the winter. Control mites: do mite sampling (either sugar dust or alcohol wash) regularly to monitor mite population; when threshold reached (about 2 mites per 100 bees) consider treatment(s), such as sugar dusting, mite away strips, requeening (or caging queen to cause a break in the brood cycle), whatever you are comfortable with.

    You can wrap, but it is not necessary. You can also move into barn, the also not really necessary. Put on entrance reducers, provide hive-top ventilation, maybe a mouse or praire vole guard on entrance.

    Consider coming to the (fall and) spring MBA conference where classes will address this very subject.

    Maybe others can respond and help as well.
    Steve Tilmann, Treasurer
    Michigan Beekeepers’ Association

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