Study and Workshop Time, Beekeeping Classes Time
Catch up on “bee reading”, nail up frames, clean, paint, get supers filled and ready. Take a beekeeping class and/or join a local beekeeping club.
On any warm flyable day, start examining all colonies. Double check any not flying. Remove any dead colonies. Start feeding any very light colonies. Winter packing may be removed but leave on the entrance reducer.
Getting Ready Time
Definitely the time to check for winter starvation. Winter packing should be removed. Feed light colonies with sugar syrup (consider medicating if you are experienced or are consulting with an experienced beekeeper).
The Critical Time!
This is the critical month! On a warm day the frames should be removed colonies condition: lack of stores or poor queen (uneven brood pattern); colony not building up and egglaying workers (all bullet-shaped drone cells). When dandelions and fruit tree bloom, colonies should be stripped down on a warm day. The bottom board should be cleaned of debris and dead bees because they retain moisture and restrict space. Colonies showing fast build up and extra strength should have hive bodies reversed.
Keep entrance reducer on because nights are still chilly. Remove only after warm weather is firmly established. On extra strong colonies, tip back the upper hive body and look for swarm cells (queen cells). If found, do something about it! That means destroy the queen cell. For the sake of your neighbors and for the hope of a honey crop, do not let your colonies swarm!
Early June is definitely the time for signs of swarming. A swarmed out hive will not produce a honey crop, may lose it’s queen and ultimately the entire colony. To prevent swarming, reverse the hive bodies. Overcrowded colonies will cover the top frame when inner colonies are removed. Add a super on the top or in between to avoid overcrowding.
Another means of preventing overcrowding is to raise sealed brood to an additional hive body. Look carefully for frames with queen cells that show glistening royal jelly at the bottom of the queen cell. That is a sure sign of a hive that will most likely swarm. Place these frames (filling in with additional empty frames) over a double screened inner cover or queen excluder. On can always pull out the board and reunite the colony if no new queen shows up. Remember, a hive that swarms is a sign of an inexperienced or inattentive beekeeper. City beekeeping calls for extra vigilance in prevention of swarms. There is nothing worse for keeping bees in the city than bad press regarding swarming bees. The best prevention is to be prepared and to stay one step ahead of the bees.
Watch for the honey flow. Any new white wax along the top bars means the colony needs a super. SUPER AHEAD OF THE FLOW. An extra super or two is good insurance. It give the bees more moving around space and keeps them happy. Watch for any colony slowing down or not flying as it should. Don’t ignore it, check inside. Disease? (increase in number of dead bee bodies, foul odor, bee movement abnormal, wing position of non-flying bees at odd angles) No queen? (too many drones and drone cells) Insect invasion? (look under the edges of the top covers for moths and on the bottom board for dead brood) Frames with too many drone cells should be moved to outer sides and eventually replaced and melted down. Any signs of disease or insect invasions require the help of an experienced beekeeper who is well-versed in hive management, bee disasters and medicating colonies.
Honey Crop Time
Super if necessary. Remove filled supers. Extract them and return them to the colonies if you are short of supers. Bees are the best cleaners of left over honey. Remember to make sure your supers are well-sealed and protected from the bees if you plan on honey extraction at a different time from removing the supers. Your bees will find and reclaim your honey in the garage or back porch if you do not seal it tightly–this is a lesson learned by experience.
Honey should be extracted while the weather is still fairly warm. Designate your extracting utensils because they will forever belong to wax and honey once they are used with warmed wax, so don’t use the good silver. Remember to leave the lion’s share for the bees if you want to have a colony for more than one year. To build up winter stores, supers should be off to force the bees to fill the empty brood areas from the fall flow. Be generous to your bees. New England weather varies and the bees will perish if you are too generous to yourself with your bees honey crop.
Lift each colony from the rear. If it seems glued down, it should have sufficient stores for the winter. Feed light colonies generously and steadily between October 1st to 25th. Give each colony a sprinkling of medicated powder over the top bars (purchased from a bee supply vendor). Bees can starve with a load of honey on sides if they can not break the cluster to move. Center frames in an upper body should be solid with honey! An extra super of honey is always good insurance. New England Spring is historically delayed, cold and wet.
Wrap Up Time
Get colonies insulated. Chips, sawdust, leaves over the top cover surrounded by an empty super keeps moisture from condensing and dripping from the cold inner cover. A piece of screen thumb-tacked over the center hole will keep bees from chewing the bag. An upper ventilation hole is very necessary.
MOISTURE ACCUMULATION, NOT COLD, kills a colony. An entrance reducer will discourage all but the most determined mice but still allow bees to take their cleansing flights on warm, dry days. A tar paper wrap around the hive body and folded under cover provides a wind break and keeps the insulation dry. Do not cover the entrance!
December is a time to relax, reflect and learn from the year’s activity.”
This poster is my beekeeping class and instruction books on one sheet of 28″x36″ poster! I will dry mount and refer to this often as well as use it for my teaching tool for the Friendly Garden Club of Beverly in March 2010. William T. Maxant is a genius in his ability to condense this amount of pertinent information onto one fabulous poster. I sing it’s praises and will use it until the print fades from the paper.