Monthly Beekeeping 

Monthly suggestions for backyard beekeepers...in Central Texas.

Checklists provided by WCABA member, Phil Ainslie.

April Checklist


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. 

April is the time for requeening. Be sure to get your queens ordered. Most long-time beekeepers currently recommend requeening yearly. We look forward to the day when that will no longer be necessary.

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

Add Supers

Feed nucs and look for swarms

 
March

 

March is the perfect time to switch from 1:1 (by volume) sugar water to 2:1.

 

The temperature often fluctuates in March. Therefore, you should wait until the temperature is above 55 degrees to do a full hive inspection.

Spring is swarm season.   March is the time to get your bait hives out to capture a swarm. If you capture a hive, you will need to requeen the hive. Here is a good article on swarm capture:  https://texasbeesupply.com/blogs/texas-bee-supply-monthly-magazine/texas-bee-supply-monthly-magazine-march-2021

 

Continue monitoring food stores. Work to maintain a 20lb surplus honey and at least one deep full of bees. There may be few flowering plants, so be sure to feed pollen substitutes during cold weeks, especially if there have been seven consecutive days of temperature less than 70 degrees. 

Make sure your hives have room to grow. Monitor closely! When all your boxes are 80% full of bees, it's time to add a box. Avoid overcrowding. If the queen runs out room to lay eggs, she might decide it is time to take the whole colony and leave in search of more space!

You should see the population of your hive beginning to explode. Your queen should be laying a tremendous number of eggs, and a new generation of bees should be hatching.
If you do not see any signs of eggs, larva, or brood, your hive is queenless, and you should order a replacement queen or merge the hive with another hive. If your hive has less than two frames of bees, merging is most likely your best option. If you have three frames of bees, you can add a frame of brood from a stronger hive and give the hive a new queen.


Consider reversing the bottom two brood boxes if the hive has moved up to box two. However, don't reverse the boxes if the brood is in both boxes or split between two boxes.

When the temperatures are mostly 60 and above, you can remove the entrance reducers.

When all your boxes are 80% full of bees, it's time to add a box. Avoid overcrowding.

Check for mites and treat if needed.

Remove entrance reducers to ensure hives do not overheat on warm days.

Make sure any stored supers are free of wax moths and are stored with wax moth crystals.

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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
screen material. 

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)

January Checklist

(From Collin County Hobby Beekeepers Association)

  1. In most years, most beekeepers in Texas will begin noticing bees bringing in small amounts of pollen on warm days at the very end of January.

  2. Queens will also begin laying in most areas in mid to late January. As the population starts to grow, the need for food increases.

  3. Continue feeding pollen substitute, either in patty form or open dry feeding. This will ensure that your hive has sufficient food available to continue rearing brood, regardless of the constantly changing weather this time of year.

  4. If your hive has less than 30lbs of excess honey stored, begin feeding small amounts (1 pint per hive, per week) of syrup to ensure the bees have the food necessary to rear brood.

  5. If your hive has three frames of bees or less, join them using the newspaper method with another hive.

  6. This time of year, it is perfectly normal to notice a few dozen dead bees in front of your hive. This is normal as winter bees begin to die off and are replaced by the next generation.

  7. If you have more than two mites per 100 bees, then treat for varroa mites. Most treatments are highly effective this time of year when the hive has little to no brood.

  8. Order bees and queens!

  9. Quick (30 second) looks into your hive are acceptable even if the weather is near freezing. However, more prolonged, several minute lengthy inspections should be reserved for days above 55 degrees.

December Checklist

  • December is the time of the year to enjoy good cheer and the holidays.

  • Make your beekeeping wish list.

  • January is not far off, and it will be time to take a peek in those hives once again.

  • When the weather gets cold, don’t open your hive.  You don’t want to chill the colony. If you must open the hive, wait until it is above fifty degrees.

November Checklist

  • By the time November arrives, most of the work in the bee yard should be complete.

  • Entrance reducers or mouse guards can go on in November.

  • Check for stores by lifting on the back of hives. Hives with less than 30-40 lbs of honey will need to be fed.

  • Work in the shop on old hive bodies can be done in November and December. Repair cracks in hive bodies with water base wood putty or Dap.

  • Frames of old dark comb or drone comb can be cleaned and fitted with a new foundation.

  • Check for varroa and treat if needed.

  • Feed light hives.  Colonies need a minimum of 30-40 pounds of stored honey to get through the winter.  A full medium foundation is about 4 lbs. and full deep is about 6 lbs. Thirty to forty lbs. of honey provides enough stores to keep the cluster alive through winter and early spring until the nectar starts to flow again. Leave 3-4 frames in the center of the bottom box for the queen to lay brood.  You don’t want the bottom box to be full of honey and the queen has not place to lay and the bees have no room to cluster.  Texasbeesupply.com has some good webinars on winter prep.

  • Be sure you have removed the queen excluder.

October Checklist

  • In all regions, check your hives for pests and adequate honey reserves.  Here in Texas, we want 30 lbs. minimum honey storage in the hive for winter. Start feeding sugar 1:1 syrup, if needed. You may want to use your reserved stored honey frames if you have any.

  • Remove queen excluders

  • Configuration for the winter:

    • Provide adequate ventilation to get the moisture out of the hive (bees will get wet and cold otherwise):

      • If you have solid floors – then top ventilation required

      • If you have an open mesh floor, the hive may get too much of a draft.  No top ventilation is needed.

      • Read more: Hive Ventilation & Configuration

    • Put hive at a slight angle, so drips of condensation on the crown board go downside of the hive rather than drip into the winter cluster

  • Add mouse guard – I have read that 50% of hives would have a resident mouse if not for a mouse guard. Put them on at the end of October (when bees are starting to cluster and not strong enough to defend themselves)

August Checklist


WEEK I

  • Extract honey

  • Melt wax

  • Clean and store combs

  • Feed nucs
     

WEEKS 2,3,4,

  • Repeat of Week 1
     

August is a hot and dry month in our part of Texas. There is little for bees to forage on other than bitter weed or perhaps some honeydew. Bees will gather large amounts of water in

August. Colonies will be very cranky and bad tempered during the nectar dearth that comes with August. Take care when opening hives that bees do not become overly excited.

 

Continue to extract honey and melt wax in August. If wax cappings are not melted soon after extracting then a beekeeper can freeze cappings for melting at a later date. Cappings and "wet" supers can be left exposed outside for foraging bees to clean. "Wet" supers may also be returned to the hive for the bees to clean.

 

Store cleaned supers in a cool and dry area. Place a super on a newspaper and stack 2 more supers on top of them. *Cover the third super with an 8" x 8" piece of paper and pour 1/4 cup of
moth crystals (not moth balls) on it. Continue to stack supers in this manner until all have been stored. Cover the very top super with a hive cover over the moth crystals and newspaper.

 

*Allow supers 24 hours to "air-out" before returning them to hives in the spring.

July Checklist

WEEK 1

  • Extract honey

  • Melt wax

  • WEEK 1

  • Extract honey

  • Melt wax

  • WEEKS 2,3, and 4 - Repeat

  • Feed nucs if needed

  • July is the month when honey extraction can be in full swing. Although horsemint and a few other nectar sources may still bloom, it is generally improbable that a surplus can be gathered.  However, this year the horsemint and Indian blanket have stuck around longer due to the greater-than-standard spring rains and cool weather.  Many hives have a lot of uncapped honey.  Hopefully, we will have a good year.

  • July is a month when robbing can become a problem. Make sure that "wet" (supers that have had the honey extracted are called wet supers) supers are not exposed to bees unless having the supers robbed clean is the intent. To help prevent weak colonies from being robbed, be careful not to drip honey in the bee yard when removing

supers.

  • Temperatures are usually high enough in July to melt wax in a solar style melter. Bees gather water to cool hives during hot weather. Make sure you provide a water source if no natural sources are available.

  • If new colonies were started in any of the previous few months, make sure they are provided with room to grow and food if they need them.

  • Check for mites, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pg3J_ufsR9A

June Checklist


by Phil Ainslie
 

  • Check beehive for a good laying pattern and a healthy queen. You might add more supers or you may be able to remove the supers and harvest their honey.  Generally, in Texas honey flow is winding down. There may be nectar coming in from sumac and horsemint.  

  • Plan to harvest honey when weather is dry and warm. Try to extract only those frames of honey at are 3/4 capped.

  • After extracting honey, place the wet frames back in the hive for them to clean up.

  • New colonies can be started in June but they need to be fed more that those started in April.

May Checklist


by Phil Ainslie
 

  • Start of May: Set up swarm traps / bait hives.

  • Continue inspections

  • 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.

April Checklist


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

Add Supers

Feed nucs and look for swarms

March Checklist

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
cold spell. 

• 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.  

February Checklist

(From the Collin County Hobby Beekeepers Association.)

  1. As your hive begins to grow, their need for food will increase. It takes up to 2 frames of honey to produce one frame of brood. Check your hive at least every other week to ensure they have enough food stores to grow appropriately. Even if flowers are blooming, that doesn’t mean those flowers are producing enough nectar to sustain your hive. We recommend maintaining at least a 20lb surplus of stored honey or syrup in your hive during February. Feed a 2:1 (2 parts sugar to 1 part water) syrup if your hive has less than a 20lb surplus of stored honey/syrup.

  2. Feeding a pollen substitute is not as critical, with an increasing number of flowers beginning to bloom. However, during February & March, we can have unexpected cold weeks, where the bees cannot forage. If the weather is 50-55 degrees or below, bees typically forage very little. If there are more than 2-3 consecutive days below these temperatures, a strong growing hive can run out of stored pollen. If a hive runs out of pollen, it will begin cannibalizing brood, which can cause your hive to lose strength quickly. To prevent this, give each hive a pollen patty if these conditions occur.

  3. Consider reversing boxes. If your hive has overwintered in 2 boxes, you will often find the majority of your bees are now in the top box as they migrate upward over the winter, consuming honey. If this has happened to your hive, reverse the boxes.  Place the box full of bees on the bottom, and the empty box on top.

  4. Add a box if your hive has all of the boxes currently 75% or more full of bees. Very strong hives can and will swarm in late February, or early March. Prevent swarming by adding a box and planning to do a split later in the spring.

  5. Consider treating mites. As a general rule, test for mites before treating. Every hive has mites, but not all hives have high enough levels to treat.  You can test for mites using the sugar role, sticky board, or alcohol wash.  A visual inspection IS NOT a reliable method for determining mite levels. In general, if you visually see mites, the infestation is already at lethal levels for your hive. If your hive has more than two mites per 100 bees, treat.

 

 

 

• 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.