Monitoring Space and Stores
Happy New Year Beekeepers!
Its hard to believe…2022! I remember thinking 2000 sounded like a futuristic space movie from my childhood and that was 22 years ago! Come on… I know I’m not the only one!?
Do you think beekeeping has changed that much in 22 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 southern states have the opportunity to forage off and on throughout winter. January is no exception. Its actually time for some pollen producing plants and trees to give bees a protein boost just about the time our queen starts a slow progression in her laying
It wasn’t 2 months ago we said she was slowing and 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 in January is the lack of “continual” nature-provided resources and more importantly, BEES to forage and take care of the ever-growing nest! It is very important to consider this when adding any pollen supplements this time of year. It’s fine to enhance nature “some,” but consider the ramifications I mentioned before. Too many mouthseed and not enough forager bees overwintered to gather groceries to feed them! Think nutrition more than brood building. Giving your bees a small helping of pollen patties can enhance their health and not be an all-out brood booster that dry pollen tends to be.
Mid to late January, you’ll see your bees really starting to get busier. It may still be very cold outside, but the days are getting longer and the bees know it. 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. 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. Those frames of honey you put in the freezer – thaw them out and start giving them back.
Placement can really “matter” on returning honey frames as a food source in January. If you have a good population, placement isn’t as crucial, but smaller, weaker colonies need that food right next to them. Don’t hesitate to place that honey frame in space 3 or 7 if needed. You can also feed 2/1 syrup but know that it takes a warm day and warm “enough” syrup for them to want to consume it. This is why some folks lean toward feeding the soft sugar bricks we talked about last month.
Another really important factor to watch for is the inability for the bees to keep themselves warm. Again, we are speaking about small or weak colonies; a double deep box may not be necessary any longer. If you see that this is the case, on a warm day, simply pull off the top (or bottom) box if it’s empty of bees and resources. So often the bees “move up” and we’ll soon be talking about “reversing brood boxes.” It’s a bit early for that, but if at the end of January you see a large hive clustered in the top box (following the heat and resources) it may be advantageous to reverse the boxes to give them room to expand very soon. Remember - Bee to box ratio is important ALL year long.