If you’re looking for a simplified list of what bees and beekeepers do during the spring – look no further 😉 Bees are very busy in the spring which means so are their keepers.
The Bees’ Perspective: The queen bee begins to lay eggs late in the winter to prepare the colony for the spring honey flow. She wants to have enough bees to go out and gather up the groceries (nectar and pollen) so that the hive can thrive in dearths: times when there is nothing out to gather. They’re building up to collect food and to hopefully swarm and reproduce as a colony. A swarm (very common in spring) is the reproduction of the full, superorganism of the bee colony. This action means the current queen will leave her hive with 40-60% of the colony to start a new colony – leaving behind some bees and the built up resources for her new, daughter queen (or the princess and her dowry if you prefer) .
The Beekeeper’s Perspective: Springtime from the beekeeper’s perspective is heavily centered around keeping the bees from swarming. And, as always, we want to make sure that they’re bringing in the resources they need by closely watching the hive and the nectar/pollen sources.
What does this mean?
Practical Application of Springtime Beekeeping:
Splits – There are many, many different split methods. Here are some youtube videos for a few to get you started.
To start off, each new split should have – frames to build on, brood, larvae, eggs, pollen, and honey, and bees should be in every split. A queen can be created from the eggs but since creating a new queen (royal jelly, building a cell, etc.) takes lots of hive energy – this will only be successful with enough bees and resources to help build a strong queen.
Monitoring Space – springtime means making sure the bees have enough space to grow but not too much space. The common advice is once 7/10 frames are full, add the next box.
Watching for swarm cells – many beekeepers will break down swarm cells when they see them. These cells can also be used in your splits – separating the queen and the queen cells.
Install screened bottom boards or remove the screened bottom board insert. This method of bottom board is helpful in reducing varroa counts and allowing the bees to control ventilation and temperature.
Remove entrance reducers – once the temperature is consistently above 55-60 degrees, you can let the bees go back to their normal entrances.
If necessary, feeding. As you become more experienced, you’ll learn when to (and when not to) feed, but in the meantime – feeding is probably better than not feeding. (As a side note, you don’t want to feed once you have honey supers on but in very early spring you’ll want to watch for nectar and pollen sources carefully. Simply put, if they’ve got food outside the hive (forage), don’t worry about supplementing)
Extract honey – late Spring may leave you with an opportunity to extract honey, however, remember there are times of dearth throughout the year so you’ll want to make sure you leave the bees with enough resources for them. We always leave 2 deeps to the bees for their brood and resource storage.