You probably already know that winter is the toughest season for beekeepers, as you don’t know if your colonies will make it through the cold season. But now that winter is almost over, you can start learning more about setting your colonies up for success in the warmer months. Follow along to learn how to prepare your beehives for spring weather.
Conduct Various Hive Inspections
The winter months can be extremely tough for bee colonies, but bees do a pretty good job of maintaining their own health and stability. Contrary to popular belief, bees aren’t inactive in the winter; they just stay within the hive and work together to stay warm. Therefore, beekeepers should avoid checking on their bees too many times throughout the winter months, as it can let too much cold air into the hive.
However, because you probably won’t spend too much time checking in on your honeybees during the winter, various hive inspections should be a part of your spring preparations. You may not catch smaller issues during your brief winter checks, so be prepared to learn much more about your hives in early spring.
Look for the Queen
As you probably already know, the queen is the most important member of the colony, as she lays all the eggs to maintain the population. During your inspections, you should look for the queen. If she’s still thriving when you find her, your hive is probably OK. On the other hand, if she’s dead or nowhere to be found, you may have issues arising in the colony.
If you have to requeen the hive, you can either bring in an outside queen and introduce her gradually or let a strong colony create its own new queen.
Treat for Any Pests and Diseases
Unfortunately, your bees may struggle with pests and diseases during the winter months, and they most likely won’t be able to fight them on their own. As a result, you may have a weak or diminished colony come spring. With that in mind, you must treat for pests and diseases to ensure your colony is good to go for the upcoming nectar flow. From varroa mites to American foulbrood disease (AFD), you won’t regret turning to treatment as soon as possible.
Monitor Honey Stores and Feed Accordingly
Bees make and store honey during the spring, summer, and early fall to feed on throughout the winter. As a beekeeper, you should look at their honey stores to ensure they still have food. Believe it or not, your bees may eat through their honey by late winter. You can’t let them starve, so you may have to take action.
For instance, you may have to provide food supplements like sugar patties or pollen for your bees until they can begin making their honey again during the nectar flow. Because bees don’t last long without food, you should be sure to check their food stores frequently.
Repair or Replace Damaged Equipment
It’s no secret that the cold temperatures and unpleasant weather conditions during the winter months can cause extensive damage to the physical hive and apiary area. Therefore, you should repair or replace damaged equipment before spring brings the nectar flow. Proper ventilation is incredibly important to maintain hive temperature, but damage can alter airflow. Additionally, hive robber bees may be able to enter your colony if there is more than one spot for entry and exit.
Add More Bees if Necessary
You’ll most likely lose some of your bees to the cold over the winter, which can be detrimental to your colony’s health. If your queen was one of the losses, your population is most likely down. Fortunately, you can add more bees if necessary. Generally, requeening your hive is an effective way to boost your numbers, but adding more bees from another source is a last-resort solution.
Think About Expansion
If you’re relatively new to beekeeping, you may only have one hive. However, spring is the perfect time to consider an expansion of your apiary. If you want to add more hives for this nectar flow, do so right before the onset of the productive spring season. You’ll most likely need to purchase a new bee nuc or several, depending on how many hives you want.
An Extra Thought
You may not want the responsibility of multiple hives, but you probably already know bees take care of themselves for the most part. Having more than one hive benefits you, as you can take resources from your strong hive(s) to provide extra help for your weaker ones.
Learn About Upcoming Weather Patterns
Spring typically comes with warmer weather, but you may not know the specifics of what to expect for the year. With that in mind, you can read the Old Farmer’s Almanac for the current year to gain a better understanding of future rainfall, temperature averages, and other potential weather conditions. This information will give you the opportunity to prepare for weather patterns in advance.
Plan a Bee-Friendly Yard
A bee-friendly yard is one of the best things you can provide for your bees. If they have to, bees may leave your hives and property to find water, nectar, pollen, and other essentials for their health and well-being. You can keep your bees close and safe by planting nectar-rich plants, trees, and flowers, adding a small bee pond, and taking precautions to keep predators away from the apiary.
Whether you have to choose a spot for your garden, dedicate more space to your bees, or use fencing to guard the hives, your bees will appreciate having their own haven. Making your yard more bee-friendly doesn’t require many changes, but it’s worth doing.
Understanding how to prepare your beehives for spring weather is the most effective way to ensure your colony’s health this year. Spring is the most important season for honeybees, as it establishes how productive they’ll be. If you’re still unsure how to help your colonies recover from the winter weather and potential damage after reading this, that’s OK. You can read more helpful information on our News page, such as tips on requeening a colony and how to protect your apiary from pests. You can also try asking other beekeepers in your area for their best advice and techniques. With patience and dedication, your bees will thrive this spring!