March 09, 2009

When to Do What for One's Bees

We've found only one book specific to Top Bar Beekeeping, which we'll review shortly, but it's amazing what you can find on the Internet. Marty Hardison's "The Appropriate Bee Hive" is chock full of information, such as The List.

Keep in mind, Marty's hives are in Colorado and New Mexico, both at altitude and both extremely dry environments. We've gotten less than a half-inch of rain so far this year! Your apiary's timing may be different depending on your growing season. Instead of March, you might think "when the crocus start blooming." And instead of September, you might think "after the First Frost but before a Hard Freeze."

Marty Hardison's Seasonal Management: THE LIST [My notes in square brackets]
Inspect colony for a queen. Spring clean. Feed if needed. [Have fondant or candy ready. February and March is when most colonies starve.]

Be sure brood chamber is not honey bound. Harvest or move honey if needed. Feed if needed. [syrup]

Prepare for swarm season. Remove entrance restrictor when weather has begun to warm. Remove false back so that bees have enough space. Harvest all old honey. [indicator is dandelion bloom].

Check to see that the bees have enough room. Harvest fresh honey if space is needed. Remove drone brood from overwintered colonies. Check condition of queen if colony is not prospering. Consider requeening. Consider splitting if more than half of the hive is full of brood. [Super strong colonies when the Russian Olives start to bloom, in preparation for the main (Linden) nectar flow.]

Harvest honey. Remove drone brood. If more than half the hive is brood, consider a split. [Requeen. By splitting a second-year colony in late July, you create a queenless half with a break in brood that can ensure you have at least one colony in your third year. Without brood, the mite population cannot grow. Learn more about nucs and splits here:]

Harvest honey. Remove drone brood. Organize combs for overwintering. [The Queen will begin to slow egg-laying but any Varroa present will keep on going. Remove as much varroa as possible; MAQS, drone cull or smoke w/sumac bobs, juniper bark and/or chaparral leaves.]

Harvest the last of the season's honey. Put on entrance restrictor. Move false back forward giving bees less space in which to winter. Determine whether feeding is necessary. [2:1 if overnight temps are still over 50°F, fondant if colder.]

October through February
Check on hives occasionally to be sure a cow hasn't overturned them or the wind hasn't blown the lid off. Don't open a hive unless absolutely necessary; the bees have a difficult time resealing the hive in cold weather. [We wrap our hives Halloween weekend.]


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