February Beekeeping Tips
FEBRUARY BEEKEEPING TIPS
by Blake Shook
Tip #1: As your hive begins to grow, their need for food will grow as well. It takes up to two frames of honey to raise one frame of brood. Be sure to check your hive at least every other week to ensure they have enough food stores to grow properly. 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 20-pound surplus of stored honey or syrup in your hive during February. Feed a 2:1 ratio (two parts sugar to one part water) of syrup if your hive has less than a 20-pound surplus of stored honey/syrup. We recommend feeding a 2:1 ratio, as a 1:1 ratio can ferment more quickly.
Tip #2: More temperate zones will see an increasing number of flowers beginning to bloom and some trees beginning to bud, making feeding a pollen substitute not as critical. However, during the months of February and March, we can have unexpected cold weeks. During these weeks the bees are unable to forage. If the temperature is 50-55 degrees or below, bees typically forage very little. If there are more than three consecutive days below these temperatures, a strong, growing hive can run out of stored pollen. If they do, they will begin cannibalizing brood, which can cause your hive to quickly lose strength. To prevent this, give each hive a pollen patty if these conditions occur.
Tip #3: Consider rotating boxes. If your hive has overwintered in two boxes, you will often find that the majority of your bees are now in the top box as they migrated upward over the winter, consuming honey. If this has happened to your hive, reverse the boxes, placing the box full of bees on the bottom and the empty box on top.
Tip # 4: If your hive has all of the boxes currently 75% or more full of bees, add another box. Very strong hives can and will swarm in late February or early March. Prevent swarming by adding another box and planning to make a split later in the spring.
Tip #5: Consider treating for mites. As a general rule, test for mites before treating. Every hive has mites, but not all hives have high enough levels to necessitate treatment. Test using the sugar roll test, CO2, or sticky board test. 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 2 mites per 100 bees, treat.
IMPORTANT FACT: The more fluctuations in temperature (warm one day, cold the next), the faster your bees eat through honey stores. Monitor closely at these times.