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The four seasons of the year come with varying activities for beekeepers. Bees have different levels of activity in the seasons too. In spring, they grow the colony population and build up some stocks of honey. Beekeepers must prepare their beehives for spring activities towards the end of winter. In this article we’ll discuss the tasks you need to carry out and how to get your beehives ready for spring.
Treat Beehives for Diseases, Pests and Parasites
Make sure you do all necessary pest, disease and parasite treatments in late winter. They help your beehive be ready for spring growth. Having diseases plagued by diseases in the spring drastically slows down the reproduction of the colony and their ability to collect food resources. The beekeeper should make sure to carry out these treatments quickly. Bee brood exposed to too much cold dies and sets back the honeybee colony. You should also not overdo the treatments so as to avoid harming your honeybees.
Shelter the Beehives Well
You want to enter spring with a strong honeybee colony. Cold winds and water entering the beehive are problematic for the bees. It also leads to too many bees dying in winter. A properly sheltered beehive is able to go through winter and emerge in spring with a strong bee colony. You should monitor the beehives frequently with brief periods of opening up the hive. Check for wind damage and make sure there is enough ventilation for the beehive. Sealed beehives lead to condensation in the hive that can devastate the honeybee colony population. Weigh down the top of beehives to prevent them from being blown away by winter winds. You may also consider using a beehive windbreak.
Feeding the Bees
Towards the end of winter, honeybees may have exhausted their honey reserves. They cannot go out of the hive to forage. Feeding the bees will ensure they remain alive in the hive. A strong honeybee colony in spring gives you high honey yields later in the year.
Quickly open the top of the beehive and check if there is any honey for the bees to feed on. If there is none, use pollen and sugar patties to feed the bees. You can time these checks and placement of food patties to be done in the warmer days of winter or early spring. The feeding should be continues until the early flower blooms of spring.
Feeding bees with sugar syrup is not advised. It cause a lot of brood to be in the beehive. With a drop in temperatures, the bees in your hive suffer huge losses in their attempt to keep the brood warm.
Getting New Beehives Ready
If you plan to start new honeybee colonies in spring, get your equipment ready. This mainly involves preparing the beehives that you will use for the new honeybee colonies. Factor in the delivery time period between ordering the beehives and receiving them. If you are making your own beehives, build them and have them ready before spring sets in.
Beekeepers with honeybee colonies that have gone through winter should be ready for swarming in spring. If your bees increase in population and want to swarm, having a beehive nearby is great. It catches the swarming bees and retains the stock in your apiary. For beekeepers who aim at more bees than honey, having beehives ready is important. It allows you to split beehives in spring with no hassles over equipment availability. You can then sell the split hives or use them to start new honeybee colonies.
Beginner beekeepers may add super boxes to beehives in late winter, ready for spring. This should be avoided. Even in late winter, the weather is too cold for bees. The additional space remains unpatrolled by bees and makes the beehive cold. This could result in more bees than is necessary dying. Additionally, the extra space can be infested by pests that you do not want invading your beehives.
Research about Spring Beekeeping
Being a beekeeper is a continuous learning experience. You should take some time in late winter to read up on spring beekeeping. Get tips from beekeepers in your area too. The research and studying up you do in readiness for spring will help your honeybee colony fare better in spring. It will also help you get better yields of beehive products in the year. This research should include information on where to buy the tools, equipment and other resources needed in spring. You might also want to know where you can buy bees to start new honeybee colonies in spring.
How to Maximize Honey Production
Effective management of honeybees in spring is the best practice for high honey yields. Honeybees have a natural inclination to hoard honey. As a beekeeper, you should aim to take advantage of this inclination for a high yield of honey. Help the bees with resources that they need to collect materials for making honey, the process of making honey and storage space for the honey they produce. Here is how to maximize honey production by proper management of honeybees in spring and round the year.
There are factors that affect honey production in a honeybee colony. Controlling these factors helps you maximize honey production. They include space, swarming, population, availability of food resources, beekeeper experience and freedom from pests and parasites. Some factors such as the weather also affect honey production, but these are not in direct control of the beekeeper. You can only help reduce the effects of such factors.
It takes approximately 6 weeks for bees to transition from a freshly laid egg to an adult forager bee. Timing brood production enables beekeepers have a large number of forager bees during nectar-flow. Building up large colonies of honeybees gives the colony better foraging power. Keep in mind that a beehive requires about 15,000 bees to tend to the queen bee, perform hive duties and nurse the brood. Prepare the honeybee colony population build up before nectar-flow, not during nectar-flow.
Feed the Bees
Feed your honeybees with nectar and pollen substitutes in late winter and early spring. The natural influx of pollen and nectar stimulates worker bees to feed the queen bee excessively. This causes the queen to lay more eggs. A mixture of sugar and water at a ratio of 1:1 substitutes nectar. Pollen substitute is sold to beekeepers in the form of patties. In addition to feed, make sure there is potable water available near your apiary. Bees need water for various functions including cooling the beehive in hot weather.
Plant Bee Friendly Flowers
When there are adequate plants and trees in flowering, you should stop feeding the bees. They will go out of the hive and bring in all the food required into the beehive. Your apiary location should be chosen with the foraging needs of bees in mind. Planting bee friendly flowers is a great way to get your beehives ready for spring. Place your beehives near honey-producing plants and many flowering shrubs and herbs. You may plant some of these plants and shrubs near your apiary to reduce the distance bees travel out in search of nectar and pollen. A radius of 1 kilometer is the most economical for high honey yields. You should also not have too many beehives in one apiary. A density of 3-4 beehives per 100 x 100 meters is recommended.
Swarming is going to lead to low honey yields. Just before swarming, honeybees gorge on honey. After swarming, the beehive is left with reduced foraging capacity. These two results of swarming cost you significant honey yields. Timely addition of super boxes, reversal of hive bodies and keeping young queen bees helps control swarming. You should also explore additional entrances that allow bees to enter the beehive and reach honey super boxes without going through the brood chamber. Congestion in the brood chamber can trigger honeybee colonies to split and swarm away. If you have to requeen, do it in fall. Requeening in spring interrupts egg-laying and brood-rearing processes that have a direct impact on your honey harvest.
Add More Hive Boxes and Frames
The timely addition of super boxes encourages nectar collection and dissuades honeybees from swarming. In spring, be ready with super boxes to add to your Langstroth beehive stack. It is right to have more super box space than the bees need. Between every 2 super boxes, you can have entrances for bees. The entrances reduce congestion in brood boxes. These entrances allow bees with nectar to bypass the brood box.
Have enough frames for honey storage with drawn out comb. Honeybees only build honeycomb when there is immediate need for it. Placing foundation without comb in your honey super boxes does not guarantee that bees will use it to store honey. Add frames with foundation and honeycomb onto a beehive during nectar-flow and the bees will start storing honey in them. You may capture swarms and use them to draw comb on foundation. This is better than using comb from other beekeepers whose management practices may leave contaminants in the drawn comb.
Treat Pests and Parasites
Pests and parasite management also matters a lot in honey production. A honeybee colony that suffers a pest or parasite infestation yields significantly less honey than one which has remained healthy. Control pests and parasites of bees using the various methods at your disposal. Beekeepers should have integrated pest management practices and carry out beehive inspections at the right frequency to catch problems and address them early.
Keep your honeybees from coming into contact with pesticides used in agriculture. These pesticides are often very harmful to bees and will kill your bees in their thousands. The damage caused by pesticides is often inflicted on foraging worker bees. This has the result of having fewer bees bringing in pollen and the nectar required for honey production. It affects your honey yields per beehive and the overall strength of the honeybee colony.
Track Honey Production
It is good to track honey production in your apiary during spring. It is best to have one beehive on a scale permanently. In spring’s nectar-flow, it is not uncommon to notice an increase of 15-20 pounds of weight. It is a better indicator that the honey flow has started than flowers on plants, trees and bushes.
How to Increase Brood Population
Bee brood in a honeybee colony determines colony strength and the yields of beehive products the beekeeper will get. Having many developing bee larvae at the right time is a desire of many beekeepers. The reasons for increasing brood population also include the replacement of winter losses, swarm prevention and increasing the number of colonies that the individual beekeeper has. Experienced and beginner beekeepers use various methods to increase brood population.
Here are the best way on how to increase brood population.
- Have a virile queen who is laying enough eggs in the beehive. This allows the bee brood to increase from the many eggs that will hatch. Queen bees lay a single egg in each cell. Once the egg hatches, worker bees feed the larvae until it pupates. If your queen bee is not laying enough eggs, the population of brood will dwindle. Replace such an old or diseased queen quickly for increased brood population.
- As more brood transitions to adult bees, the rate of brood population and adult honeybee population growth increases. This is because of increased foraging power that makes large colonies of honeybees build up quicker.
- Feed the honeybees with light sugar syrup. The syrup should be constituted at a ratio of 1:1 between sugar and water. It triggers the bees to feed the queen more and in turn she lays more eggs. You should add supplementary protein to the feeding regime of honeybees for increased brood population.
- Protect beehive and especially the brood from wind and extreme temperature variations. Cold conditions lead to brood death. In cold times, reduce entrances and other openings through which the wind may enter your beehive. Additionally, make sure your beehive is watertight or does not allow in rainwater or water from melting snow.
- Recognize and address foulbrood and chalkbrood diseases. These should be identified early if they strike your beehives. Addressing them properly in their onset saves the honeybee colony from the effects of these diseases. Foulbrood and chalkbrood diseases cause death of honeybee brood and can cause the colony to leave the beehive.
A Final Word
Honeybees are delicate creatures yet very hardworking. They require their living conditions to be optimized for maximum yields. Beekeepers share the various tactics they use to keep their colonies strong. Join a beekeeping association near you or start one to benefit from the collective knowledge of beekeepers in your area. Additionally, use and share these tips on how to get your beehives ready for spring and increase your harvest of beehive products.
How do you get your beehives ready for spring? Leave a comment below and let us know.