Monthly suggestions for backyard beekeepers...in Central Texas.
by Phil Ainslie
Start of May: Set up swarm traps / bait hives.
In Texas bees are busy during May. You’ll start seeing capped honey. At this point, simply check your hive to ensure the queen is alive and busy laying eggs.
Add super, preferably one that needs drawing out. Why? They will produce wax and this might reduce their intention to swarm. If it is a new hive, add drawn out comb.
by Phil Ainslie
April is the month when flowers start blooming and the major nectar flow will kick into gear. Swarms are more frequent in April.
If you ordered queens and package bees in January or February,
this is also the month to receive them. Major nectar producers in April include red clover, vetch, hedges, wildflowers, Yuchi clover, and some trees.
Watch honey supers closely during April. If bees are working on
6-8 frames it will be time to add another super. Empty supers may be added either above or below full supers. Bees need plenty of room to store the abundant nectar which comes with April. Give bees enough room so that nectar does not get stored in the brood nest. A total of 3 to 4 supers per hive is generally enough for the season.
Now is the time to use the queens and/or packages of bees that you ordered for delivery in April.
Make more hives...
If you already have several strong hives with abundant resources, you can also make a 5-frame nuc (small hive) by removing from the strong hives, 2 frames of brood, with bees and 1 frame with pollen and honey. Place these 3 frames in the middle of a 5 frame nuc box and add two frames of foundation on either side.
A 10-frame brood box can be substituted for the nuc box.
Introduce a young queen (that you ordered) to the new colony.
Feed 2 x 1 sugar syrup until bees have drawn out wax comb on all
5 frames, then add another brood box and continue to feed until that box is also full.
WEEKS 1 and 2
Super production colonies
Reverse brood chambers
Make new colonies with package bees
Make nucs from strong colonies
WEEKS 3 and 4
Feed nucs and look for swarms
The month of March can surprise beekeepers because many bees starve during this time of the year. Check your local environment. Are trees and flowering plants providing pollen? If you see your bees bringing in pollen, the queen will soon begin laying. Flying bees require more energy (honey). Regularly check the weight of your hive, and feed if necessary. If the hive feels light when you lift the rear, it probably needs sugar water. Texas temps fluctuate and a sudden cold snap can result in bees starving because they used up stores due to warmer temps prior to the
• Hive Inspections:
When warm enough, check your varroa count and treat if needed.
Focus on swarm prevention early in the month by checker-boarding, i.e. alternating empty brood frames and honeycomb above the brood chambers to create space for the bees or, rather, make them think that they have more space. In an untouched hive, the brood chamber containing the eggs and hatching larvae is located in the center, and checker-boarding spreads out this area. It doesn’t require additional honey; just move an empty honeycomb (a frame with drawn-out wax) into the spot from which you removed a frame with brood on it.
• March Feeding: Use 2:1 sugar to water until the outside temperature warms up. Then you can use 1:1. To make a 2:1 mix of sugar and water, use a 10 lb bag of sugar, with 11 cups of water. Do not boil the sugar water. Heat the water first, then add the sugar to the hot water (not boiling water). Stir until dissolved. The reason for not using 1:1 is because the extra water can cause cooling condensation in the hive. Plus the bees have to work harder (fanning) to reduce the water content.
• Hive Inspections:
When the temperature is above 50 degrees or more (sunny and not windy!) you might want to inspect hives. The purpose of hive inspections this month, is to make sure each hive has adequate stores (of honey and pollen) to prevent starvation and get bees through February and March!
• How much honey?
It is generally agreed that any hive of bees should not have less than one or two 9-5/8" frames of honey. A strong colony during the first
weeks of February will have from 6 to 10+ frames of bees and 10 to 30+ pounds of honey. A medium frame will weigh 3-5 lbs. and a deep will weigh 7-9 lb per frame.
• Supplemental sugar
While freezing temperatures are still an issue, granulated sugar can help supplement food stores...not sugar syrup; put sugar on a sheet of brown packing paper, 8 1/2"x11", placed across the top of a box of frames, but, below the inner cover. Several scoops of sugar.
Caution, do not use powdered sugar.
• Entrances narrowed down to an inch or so
To help keep the hive warm and cold winds out!
• February is the time to order equipment and bees for spring if needed.
Videos - Hive Management
Super Spacers and Shims
Use this 2", super/spacer in a variety of ways. From Mann Lake: "Baggie Feeder"
ready to put together.
In the winter, use a 2" super between two boxes or under an inner cover to provide space to mound dry sugar on a 3/4 sheet of brown, packing paper, placed on top of frames.
In hot summer temperatures, use as a
"ventilation super". Drill 2, 1" holes in at least
two sides and cover holes with plastic
Mann Lake - 8 or 10 frame Baggie Feeder (fd112)
Place this 3/4" shim between boxes to provide space for Varroa treatment trays.
Mann Lake - 8 or 10 frame shim (ww239)