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Monitoring Space and Honey Stores

It’s hard to believe we are about to embark on spring 2024! I remember thinking 2000 sounded like a futuristic space movie from my childhood, and that was 24 years ago! Come on—I know I’m not the only one! Do you think beekeeping has changed that much in 24 years? I suspect so. But some things never change, like the need to pay attention to growth or decline inside our hives this time of year. Bees in most temperate climates have the opportunity to forage off and on throughout winter. February is no exception. It’s actually time for some pollen-producing plants and trees to give bees a protein boost just in time for our queens to start laying again for spring!

It wasn’t two months ago when we said they were slowing and had stopped laying in some cases, but that didn’t last very long! In warmer climates a hive can contain brood nearly year-round. The problem with brood buildup too early is the lack of continual nature-provided resources and, more importantly, the number of bees available to forage and take care of the ever-growing nest. When feeding pollen supplements, think nutrition along with timing of brood buildup. Giving your bees a small helping of pollen patties can enhance their health and not be the all-out brood booster that dry pollen tends to be. In mid- to late February, you’ll see your bees really starting to get busier. It may still be very cold outside, but the days will be getting longer and the bees will react accordingly.

Dry pollen

On warm days do a quick hive check. If the cluster has moved up, you know they are eating through stores, making it crucial to monitor closely.

Regardless of the time of year, it's easy to monitor honey stores by doing the tilt test.

Early spring can expose a weak hive very quickly. Low food stores and small numbers of bees can’t end well without your intervention. The key is to recognize it and be prepared to supplement. Remember those frames of honey you stored in the freezer? Now's the time to use them! Thaw them out and start giving them back.

Placement of those honey frames matters. If you have a good population, placement isn’t as crucial, but smaller, weaker colonies need that food right next to the bulk of the bees.

You can also feed 2:1 syrup, but know that it takes a warm day for them to want to consume it. This is one of many reasons beekeepers like feeding Stan’s Soft Sugar Bricks through February and early March—full nutrition all in one.

Another really important factor to watch for is the inability for the bees to keep themselves warm. I’m referring to small or weak colonies here. A double deep box may not be necessary any longer. If you see that this is the case, simply pull off the top (or bottom) box on a warm day if it isn't being utilized. If resources remain on these frames, freeze and then store accordingly.

Remember, the bee-to-box ratio is important all year long. The key to February beekeeping is to monitor, feed if necessary, and decrease or increase space when needed. Our bees really do depend on us to take care of these aspects they have no control over.

EASY STOVETOP SMALL BATCH 2:1 SUGAR SYRUP RECIPE

 4 lb. bag of sugar formula: 4 cups water per bag of sugar (makes approximately 2 quarts or a half gallon)

 10 lb. bag of sugar formula: 10 cups of water per bag of sugar (makes approximately 4.5 quarts or 1.5 gallons)

  • Heat water on med-high heat in a large stock pot just until marbling (slow swirl) occurs. DO NOT LET IT BUBBLE—boiling will cause the syrup to candy.
  • Turn off the heat and add the sugar while stirring.
  • Stir occasionally (every 10-15 minutes) until all dissolved.
  • Syrup will be clear but opaque.

These formulas are by volume, not weight.

 

SPRING SPLITS CLASS

Whether in person or virtually, we invite you to join our EXPERT TEAM of beekeepers to learn how to effectively and safely split your spring hives!

This class covers all the basics in making splits, both inside the classroom and in an apiary.

Topics covered for this popular class include:
  • Ordering queens for your split
  • How to prepare your hive to split
  • Hive strength requirements for splitting
  • Making the split
  • Feeding and installing a queen
  • To move or not to move
  • Post-split care
  • Queen acceptance and more

Three in-person locations to choose from. Check out all of our beekeeping classes

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Previous article WHY ARE THERE DEAD BEES OR PUPAE IN FRONT OF MY HIVE?
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