Spring Management of bees
Spring Management and Preparation of Package Bees
Look at our new class:
Ready, set, go, spring is around the corner! There are two groups of beekeepers headed into spring. Those who do not have bees but will be getting packages or nucs this year, and then there are those who have overwintered bees and are looking forward to seeing how well these over-wintered colonies survived the winter.
A first year hive is just what it sounds like. It is the installation of a package of bees or a nuc. A second year hive means the colony has overwintered one winter and is now in its second year.
First, what about new beekeepers just starting out?
Even though it is cold outside, you must start preparing now!
1) All of your beekeeping equipment must be ordered soon so that you can become familiar with all the pieces and where to place it in your yard.
Unless you live in the deep south, you need these hive components:
Screen bottom board
2 Deep brood hive bodies with frames/foundation
2-3 Medium supers with frames/foundation
An inner cover
An outer cover
An entrance reducer
Either a top or an entrance feeder
A hive tool
That's your equipment checklist. Do not improvise. Keep bees the right way with the right tools. Do not use a screw driver instead of a hive tool, or a trash bag instead of a hat and veil. Do it right if you are going to keep bees! We have several online options if you still need to order your hive, bees or equipment at www.honeybeesonline.com
If you are rusty or unfamiliar with hive components, please review Lesson One (and following) which explains the various components which make up the beehive.
2) Prepare yourself for installing your bees by reviewing Lesson Seven which explains in detail with pictures on how to install your bees. Go over and over this lesson until you can do it in your sleep. And watch our videos on how to install a package of bees.
3) Build up your confidence. Installing packaged bees is very simple and enjoyable. So do not give in to your fears or reservations. Taking our beginners class is a big help. See what openings we still have for this year.
4) On a nice day, before your bees arrive, place your hive in the spot of your choice. Block the entrance with your entrance reducer to prevent mice from making a home prior to your bees arriving.
Once your preparations are made, now you're ready for your bees to arrive in the spring. Once we inform you of an approximate date your bees will be available for pickup here at our honey bee farm. Mix 1:1 sugar water in a clean spray bottle and have it ready. They need that sugar water spray! The spray will go through the screen and provide nourishment for them.
You will notice dead bees on the inside bottom of your package of bees. This is normal. The packages are packed with this in mind, allowing extra for those that die.
When you transport your bees home, keep them covered from direct sunlight but allow air around the cage. Do not wrap or put plastic or a blanket around the cage or you will kill your bees. Keep them out of direct sunlight as this will excite them and overheat them as well. If you put packages in the bed of a truck, keep them from being wind burned if you are driving at interstate speeds. Keep direct sun off your packages in the bed of a truck or they will overheat.
There are can be bees on the outside of your package. This does not necessarily mean the box is leaking bees. It just means some didn't make it inside, but they are hanging on for dear life to stay with their sisters, clinging to the cage.
Since package bees have a queen in a separate cage their morale is low. They are not as aggressive. They are a bit confused and so you will become more confident once you see how calm they are. What if the weather is cloudy and rainy on the day you pick up your bees? No big deal. You can install them under a porch or umbrella and carry the hive to it's location.
Next, follow my lessons on installing a package of bees. YOU MUST PLACE ALL 10 FRAMES IN THE HIVE AFTER INSTALLING YOUR PACKAGE. If you fail to do this, the bees will attach comb in the open space up to the inner cover or top cover and you will not be able to open your hive without destroying the nest. ALL TEN FRAMES MUST GO BACK IN THE HIVE AFTER INSTALLING YOUR PACKAGE!
You must install your bees, as I have pointed out in Lesson Seven, in only one deep brood box. Do not put your second brood box on yet, nor your honey super. You will not need to add these until later. The general rule is to wait until about 5-7 frames are drawn out in your first box, then add the second. When 5-7 frames in the second box is drawn out, add your honey super. Always use your inner cover over your last box, even at first when you only have one deep brood box. And your top cover goes on last. Weigh down your top cover with a heavy rock incase you have a nasty spring thunderstorm with high winds. I've lost hives due to severe thunderstorm winds. This new hive is very light in weight. Once it matures, it will way over 150 pounds. But for now, keep it weighed down.
Once installed, stay out of the hive for 1 week, at least 7 days. No peaking! On day 7 gently smoke the opening of your hive, wait a minute, open the lid and inspect the queen cage. Pull it out, as she should not be in her cage. Usually there is a small amount of comb on the bottom of her cage. Be sure she is not on that comb. If she is, gently shake her onto a frame. Save the cage as a souvenir that YOU DID IT!
Continue to feed your bees either with a top feeder or an entrance feeder.
Close up the hive and wait another week. Around day 14 from your original installation date, smoke the entrance and inspect the hive. Pull out a few frames and see if you can see tiny eggs in the bottom of the cells where the comb has been drawn out. You might see if you can find your queen. If you spot your queen, good for you! Now, be careful. If she is on the frame you are inspecting, hold that frame over the hive incase she falls off, she will fall safely back in her hive. If you hold your frame over the grass and she falls off, it is unlikely that she will find her way back in. Maybe, but let's not see how good she is with directions.
Careful with that queen. When you place the frame back into the hive, in the same orientation before you took it out, make sure that you do not smash the queen. Watch her as you lower the frame down into the hive to ensure she is not wedged between combs or the wooden ware.
Now that it's been two weeks, and the queen is laying good, you can rest comfortably knowing that all is well. Continue feeding your bees, at least 2 weeks after installation and longer if they seem to be consuming a lot! Once real nectar can be found in your area, your girls should forage for nectar rather than drink from your feeders.
Now, you will need to simply enjoy beekeeping. Inspect your hive briefly every two weeks to make sure you see the queen or that you see freshly laid eggs. Then you know all is well. You must monitor your mites. Keep your mite levels below 3 mites per 100 as we teach in our classes.
Take a moment now that you've experienced bee and decide if you want more hives. Believe it or not, it is not too late. Say it's May 15, and you installed your package and have shown off to all your friends and relatives how you can open a hive and live. Maybe you find that you thoroughly love keeping bees! Your girls (the bees) have really brought you a lot of enjoyment and peace. Well, go ahead and order another hive or two. Usually you can catch a swarm all through the month of May and expand your bee yard.
Keep our number handy: 217-427-2678.