If you’re reading this, chances are you’re thinking about becoming a beekeeper. Beekeeping is a rewarding hobby, and it’s not as overwhelming as it seems. Not only does it help the environment by bolstering the bee population, but you get free honey out of it! Maintaining a beehive is a relatively simple process, from setting up the hive to harvesting the honey in the fall and keeping your bees alive through winter.
Beekeeping in the Spring
Spring is a busy season for beekeepers. Your work isn’t done once you set up your hive (find instructions on how to do that here). Whether your hive is brand new or returning to life after a cold winter, inspect it early in the spring. Check for signs of disease or mites and medicate accordingly. If you’re checking last year’s hive, make sure your queen is still there.
Check for honey in the frames. Honey usually has white cappings. Check out this article to tell the difference between honey and brood cells. If you don’t see any honey, feed your bees pronto. If your hive has multiple hive bodies, rotate them.
Spring chores for beekeeping may also include planting flowers and other plants on your property that will feed your bees. Here’s a list of 10 Flower Plants Honey Bees Love.
Your hive population will reach its highest point during the summer and begin to dwindle as fall approaches. Check in on your hive every other week to check for disease and honey. If your supers are getting heavy, you may need to add more. Keep an eye out for swarming and alien bees coming to steal your hive’s honey. You’ll probably want to put an entrance reducer on your hive.
It’s time to get busy again. Although your hive population will dwindle in the fall, there’s a lot to be done to prepare it for winter. Harvest your honey, remove supers, and remember to leave enough stored honey to feed the hive through winter. You’ll want to leave about 60-70 lbs of honey. If your bees didn’t store enough honey for the winter, feed them a sugar syrup and possibly a nutrient substitute like Honey-B-Healthy. You can feed your bees periodically or use a feeder.
Check for brood in your frames early in the fall. If you don’t see any brood cells, you need to re-queen immediately; otherwise, you’ll likely have to get a new hive come springtime.
If you’ve been using a queen excluder, take it out. The worker and drone bees will be able to migrate to the top of the hive, but leaving the excluder in will trap your queen.
Many beekeepers wrap their hives to keep them warm, but this sometimes causes condensation to gather inside which will end up killing your hive. It all depends on your climate and how well your hive is ventilated.
Maintaining a Beehive through Winter
A beekeeper’s goal in winter is to keep their hive alive to see spring. Check your hive every 2-4 weeks for mites and disease and to make sure they have enough food. To protect against or treat mites, put a grease patty in each hive. Protect your hives from mice by using mouse guards.
If you have weaker hives, combine them with the strong. Combining two weak hives often does not work.
Again, you may want to wrap your hive to provide insulation, but make sure you also facilitate ventilation so there’s air travelling through the hive to prevent condensation. You may also want to build a windbreak by your hives. Some beekeepers use straw or hay bales, although these often become rodent nesting grounds.
Remember to keep checking on your hive every few weeks to make sure the queen is well and the hive is healthy and strong. And enjoy your honey in the meantime! It won’t be long before it’s time to start the process all over again.
If you have any of your own beekeeping tips, post them in the comments below and share this article on Facebook!