Anson's (Non-Exhaustive)
Guide to Beekeeping

The birds and the bees (but mostly the bees)

Bee-keeping Calendar

January

  • Make or order hive parts, equipment and supplies required for the season. Order bees or

queens.

  • Keep hive entrances clear of dead bees.
  • In snow-free areas, gently tip the colony forward to gauge its weight.
  • If light, supplemental sugar syrup may be applied. Limit disruption of colony as much as possible.
  • If using a frame feeder, carefully crack the inner cover and slide sideways, pour the room-temperature syrup.
  • Add a floating device to prevent bees of drowning. Don’t open hives and disrupt the winter cluster.

February

  • Apply pollen patties to stimulate brood rearing
  • Make sure that ingredients are all digestible.
  • Non-digestible materials may cause dysentery and stimulate Nosema disease.
  • When the weather is warm at the end of the month, inspect the top box and look for bee brood, pollen and food reserves.
  • Don’t bother searching for the queen when eggs are visible.
  • Determine mite levels by installing a strip (Apivar or Apistan) and a sticky board for 24 hours may

March

  • Register apiary location with Ministry of Agriculture
  • Bees will start flying intermittently in warmer parts of BC, bringing in pollen.
  • When weather permits, take hives apart and clean floorboards.
  • If no bees in the bottom brood chamber, remove, sort combs, clean, repair and paint where necessary.
  • Check for eggs and brood to confirm a laying queen. Install entrance reducer.
  • Continue stimulative feeding of syrup. Ensure sufficient pollen stores or provide pollen patties.
  • Feed warm, thick syrup. Prepare sugar syrup by adding 3 parts sugar to two parts hot water
  • Sometimes 2:1
  • Check for diseases in colony
  • If Brood’s disease is found, use antibiotics to treat when confirmed
  • Check for Varroa mites in colony
  •  If tracheal mites are suspected, apply formic acid treatments

April

  • Packaged bees arrive
  • After hiving, reduce hive entrances to 8 cm.
  • Check Brood chambers of wintered colonies
  • Should be reversed
  • Check all hives, whether wintered or packages, for queens and stores every 10-14 days.
  • Feed syrup as required and replace queens if necessary.
  • If the bee package is placed on foundation only, feed a minimum of 1 gallon of sugar syrup every week and pollen patties every two weeks.
  • Continue checking all hives for Varroa mites and Brood chambers
  • Around once a month

May

  • Continue feeding syrup as necessary and examine colonies for disease regularly
  • Stop feeding syrup when bees bring in nectar.
  • Check hives for queen swarm cells, disease, stores and space requirements.
  • Prevent or control swarming
  • If a swarm emerges, and no additional colony is required, return the swarm to the hive from which it came.
  • Kill old queen and install a queen cage with a purchased queen.
  • Alternatively, kill the old queen and allow colony to raise own queen.
  • Remove all queen cells except one after 11-12 days. New queen will emerge on day 13.
  • Replace frames with 10% drone cells/more worker comb/full sheets of foundation.
  • If colony started from package, add a second brood chamber as soon as bees have begun to occupy the outside frames of the first brood chamber.
  • Use drawn combs when available or a super of foundation with one or two drawn combs in the middle.
  • These combs may be removed from the bottom brood chamber and replaced with foundation.
  • Add supers of combs or foundation as required to provide room for expanding bee population and for the storage of surplus honey.
  • If a queen excluder is used, place it over the second brood chamber. Do not use a queen excluder if foundation is used in the third box.
  • Test for Varroa mites by choosing few random colonies in the apiary
  • When mite levels are high (approx. 50+ on sticky board after 24 hours), remove honey supers and apply recommended numbers of Apistan or Apivar strips.
  • After a few days, remove strips and replace honey supers.

June

  • Continue regular hive checks for queen performance, swarm cells, stores, disease, and sufficient space.
  • Reverse brood chambers when bottom chamber is underutilized. Do not use antibiotics when honey supers are on.

July

  • Nectar flows are at their maximum!
  • Add supers as necessary.
  • Some geographic regions, extraction begins
  • Supers should be removed and honey extracted as soon as combs are two-thirds capped.
  • In areas of high production and where the flow extends to mid-August, extracted combs should be returned to the hives.
  • Test for Varroa in randomly selected colonies.
  • Be(e) aware of colonies with unusual population expansion may be receiving large numbers of Varroa infested bees from collapsing colonies nearby

August

  • From the middle to the end of the month, install entrance reducers to prevent robbing by bees and wasps
  • DO NOT spill syrup as this may initiate robbing.
  • By the second half of month, take off all supers containing honey in excess of what is required for wintering.
  • When removing honey supers, and when the honey flow is over or temporarily ceased, remove supers in early morning or near sunset to prevent robbing.
  • Colonies may be requeened with young laying queens following the removal of honey.
  • Feed sugar syrup when requeening.
  • If weather remains warm, substitute solid entrance reducers with fine wire-mesh barriers (except for the 2-inch opening).
  • After honey supers have been removed, always test for Varroa. Apply control products as needed.

September

  • Finish extracting. Check all hives for wintering needs.
  • Select hives suitable for wintering.
  • Do not attempt to winter weak colonies, queenless colonies, colonies with a poor queen, or one that has little or no pollen.
  • Hives require 50-80 pounds of honey (depending on area) and pollen stores equal to two combs filled on both sides with pollen.
  • When honey stores are insufficient, supplement with sugar syrup.
  • Feeding too late prevents bees from inverting the sugars, evaporating the moisture,and properly storing and capping the material.
  • Testing for Varroa is optional.
  • Test for Nosema by submitting a sample of adult bees or fecal scrapings. If confirmed, add fumagillin to syrup

October

  • Lower Mainland finishes feeding by end of October
  • Entrance openings are adjusted for winter according to regional requirements.
  • Complete cleanup of apiary.
  • Test for Varroa.
  • Last opportunity to determine Varroa mite levels!
  • In case treatment is needed, don’t apply formic acid because of low temperatures. Apply strip formulations for 6 week treatment period (as per label instructions) or apply Oxalic acid treatment in late November.

November

  • Equipment should be sorted and stored or set aside for cleaning and maintenance.

December

  • Continue sorting and maintaining equipment.
  • Order new equipment and supplies for next year
  • Assemble new hive equipment