The hive should be visited weekly and inspected for the health of the bees and to see how full the hives are becoming, and to see whether the queen is still present. You will know if your queen bee is still present by looking at the cells and the new eggs. If there are eggs present, the queen was there at least 2 days ago. If you don't see any new eggs, but only bee larva, that means that she was there 3-8 days ago. Therefore finding larva is not enough, you need to look for new eggs. To prevent over-crowding, the supers should be removed when the cells have been capped and the honey removed, new supers added and any new queen cells detected should be destroyed. Summer is also the time when your bees could swarm. They do this when they don't have enough room for all the bees in the present hive as the queen can lay more than 2000 eggs a day, resulting in many more bees for your hive than it can readily accommodate if left unchecked. The problem is that once they do start swarming, half the hive will leave, along with the queen bee, leaving you with the rest of the bees without a queen. These bees will be useless until they get a new queen or the old one is returned. If you manage to find the swarm you can always capture them again and start a new hive. Place a frame of brood in the hive with a new swarm for an effective way of keeping the swarm in the hive. Also feed the bees to help them become established. If, however you don't find the swarm because they have traveled too far, you will need to go back to your hive and work through the frames, destroy all but ONE of the queen cells that has a viable queen larva in it. Within 25 days, a queen will hatch, and within 10 days will begin laying eggs. By late summer, the queen's egg production will begin to drop off and the chance of swarming has decreased also.
Fall is the season when your queen bee's egg laying is dramatically reduced, the drones begin disappearing and your hive population decreases. However, be aware too that this is the time that other bees could be on the “look out” for honey and could end up robbing your hive! If you have done your job of beehive maintenance in summer, when autumn comes around, all you have to worry about is extracting the main bulk of the honey. Harvesting the honey is done from late summer or early fall/autumn. It is always wise not to remove too many frames of honey. This is because the honey is really for the bees to tide them over winter and if you remove all the honey, the bees will die. Leave at least 60 - 80 pounds of honey behind if you have very cold winters, and in addition, make up a sugar syrup for them. Check to see if you need to fill up the feeder with more syrup if necessary. So FEED, FEED, FEED in the Fall and Autumn. Can also feed 0% Pollen Protein Patties (order on our web site). If your winters are mild, then you will need to keep back 30-40 pounds of honey for your bees. Fall is the time to guard against Varroa Mites by placing some medicated strips into the hive. We recommend Mite Away Quick Strips (Formic acid for mite control) - order on our web site.
The cold weather inhibits the bees' movements, and they remain in their hives. In order to help your bees survive the winter, you will need to minimize the loss of internal heat in the hive by narrowing the opening to the hive. If the bee hive doesn't have enough ventilation condensation will form, turn to ice, and will prove deadly for your bees. Leave the hive undisturbed throughout the winter, and only open again in the spring, when the weather has warmed up considerably. In many regions of the country, the bees stay in the hive in January except to go out for occasional cleansing flights on warm days. January is "hands-off” but if there’s snow at the entrance, clear it off to make sure there’s ventilation. If you can pick up your hive easily, it might be light on honey. Each colony needs at least 50-60 pounds of stored honey to keep them from starvation in the winter. If you know early enough in the season, like in the fall, you can begin feeding then. Even if you don't feed until winter and early spring, you can still feed the bees. You might want to use granulated sugar or fondant during cold winter days. If checking on or feeding bees in winter, do not open the hive unless it is at least 60 degrees F outside with little to no wind. Never remove frames to inspect them unless it is at least 60 degrees F outside. One consideration when feeding bees is whether you want to stimulate brood production. Some forms of feed stimulate brood production more than others: for example, granulated sugar does not because of its lower water content. Only feed as much as necessary. Overfeeding can stimulate bees to swarm or to overproduce brood. If you have honey stored, you can feed this back to your bees. Honey is the best bee food. But never used purchased honey, because it can introduce diseases and contamination to your hive! Beekeepers sometimes set aside dark, strong-colored or other "off" honey to feed to bees in an emergency. Otherwise, just make sugar syrup or use dry sugar or fondant, or protein patties - order on our web site.
Do Not Open the Hive as bees are still in their winter cluster. But if there’s snow at the entrance, clear it to ensure proper ventilation. If you can pick up your hive easily, it might be light on honey. Each colony needs at least 50-60 pounds of stored honey to keep them from starvation. If you know early enough in the season, like in the fall, begin feeding them sugar syrup (in-store pickup only), and a protein patty (available on our web site or in-store pickup). You might want to use granulated sugar or fondant during cold winter days. Do not open the hive in January unless at least 50 degrees, work quickly, do not keep hive open more than a few minutes.
Ensure the hive has enough honey. This is particularly true in the South, where the weather is milder and bees are more active instead of clustering to stay warm; however, northern bees also need adequate stores to maintain their hive temperature through cold spells. Carefully lift an end of the hive to gauge the weight of the deeps (the two boxes that make up the main body of the hive). You want your hive to weigh at least 50 to 70 pounds at this time of year. Bees will consume 25 lbs. of honey this month!! Workers will take cleansing flights on mild days. The queen is still in the cluster and will begin to lay a few more eggs each day. Honey is healthier for the bees than a sugar-based feed, as it contains all of the necessary enzymes and vitamins that the bees need. Perhaps retain frames of honey that you can put into the hive as needed during the winter. If you don’t have honey, use another type of feed. If light in weight when lifting a corner, place fondant, granulated sugar, protein patties (order on our web site) or candyboard inside.
The month of March can surprise beekeepers as the colony can die of starvation if you have not fed them plenty of sugar syrup in the previous autumn. If you do not see any sealed honey in the top frames, you may need to provide them with food. Continually check the weight of your hive, and feed more honey if necessary. The bees are moving and expending energy, so ensure they are fed even though a modest hands-off approach is appropriate. During a warm day, some beekeepers (in the North) treat for mites before the nectar flow begins. Beekeepers in the South focus on swarm prevention early in the month by "checkerboarding" - alternating empty drawn frames and honeycomb above the brood chambers to create space for the bees or, rather, make them think that they have more space. In an untouched hive, the brood chamber containing the eggs and hatching larvae is located in the center. DO NOT separate the brood frames; checkerboarding is done above this area to give room for the nest to expand. It doesn’t require additional honey; just move empty comb (a frame with drawn-out wax) between frames of honey ABOVE the brood nest.
By April, southern bees are into honey-making, so add supers. Beekeepers in cooler regions will experience a slower start during April. The bees begin to bring pollen into the hive when weather improves. The queen is busy laying eggs and the hive population grows rapidly. Drones begin to appear. It takes some time before you get to a point where you can read the bees’ behavior. Look at the condition of the comb, whether the queen is laying eggs and if the bees are bringing in pollen. This also is a good time to look for signs of hive pests and diseases and treat if necessary.
May is the heyday for northern hives. There should be lots of activity at the entrance as nectar and pollen should begin to come into the give thick and fast. The queen reaches the greatest rate of egg laying. When you open the hive, look for nectar and pollen stores, and make sure there’s a nice laying pattern in the brood chambers. Also keep an eye out for swarming behavior. Reverse boxes so bees will feel more space, then add a super. In the South, bees are busy during May and you will see capped honey. Ensure the queen is alive and laying. Complete spring mite treatment before adding honey supers. If you use queen excluders, the bees will not (usually) draw foundation (build comb) above excluder.
The queen’s rate of egg laying may drop some but the main honey flow will occur in June. Inspect the hive weekly to ensure the queen is present and the hive is healthy. Check for a good laying pattern and a healthy queen, then and add more supers if needed. Southern beekeepers can remove the supers and harvest their honey.
Nectar flow may continue this month. Hive inspections are necessary to ensure the health of the colony. In the North, bees should be capping nectar. Remove entrance reducer so bees can properly cool down hive. In the South, bees are finished producing honey, so split the hive to create more space so bees can build up the honey supply before winter. In the Appalachian regions, add supers. Other areas take advantage of late-season nectar flows. Beekeepers should look for mites at all times, though. Prep for winter and combine weak hives, eliminate pests and watch honey stores.
Nectar flow will begin to slow down and growth is diminishing. Swarms are unlikely. Replace entrance reducer to ward off thieving yellow jackets. For particularly bad robbery cases, close up her hive for 24 hrs, but otherwise leave bees alone during this time. With no significant nectar flow, they become hungry so ensure good pollen store.
The queen has reduced laying and population is dropping. Harvest your honey crop, then apply chemical mite control-do before or after honey production to avoid chemical contamination. Drones may begin to disappear. Leave honey in hive for winter. Ck for queen's presence. Continue feeding.
The bees are getting ready for winter and there is little activity in the hive. Be sure to install a mouse guard at the entrance of the hive. In all regions, check your hives for pests and adequate honey reserves. Feed sugar syrup or use reserved honey. Watch out for robbing. Configure the hive for winter, with attention to ventilation, moisture control and wind break (bales of hay, cinderblocks, a wall, trees, etc.).
Bees now will form a cluster as cold weather approaches. Feeding continues as long as the bees use the sugar syrup. Use mouse guards and entrance reducer. Ensure the entrance is cleared of snow for proper ventilation.
The bees are in a very tight cluster. Don’t open your hive. Ensure the entrance is cleared of snow for proper ventilation. Order bees, equipment, and supplies. If you wait until spring to order, there may not be any available.
Aggressive Honey Bees
Aggressive behaviors are merely a part of the cyclic nature of honey bee colonies. Not having a queen is frequently a cause of "feisty" bees. The bad behavior usually stops as soon as the colony or the beekeeper replaces the queen. A shortage of nectar-producing flowers is called a nectar dearth. The bees can’t find nectar so they often try to steal it from other hives. This begins an aggressive behavior known as robbing. Not only are robbing bees aggressive, but the bees being robbed become aggressive defenders of their stores. This often results in a cloud of bees around a hive, especially in the fall. Check if there is robbing - you will see bees fighting with each other at the hive entrance. The ground in front of the hive may be littered with dead honey bees. Fighting bees release an alarm pheromone—an odor that warns other bees of the danger. The alarm pheromone makes other honey bees aggressive—more fighting means more pheromone is released which means more bees join the fray. The situation can escalate quickly. Once the alarm pheromone has aroused the bees, you and your pets and your neighbors are fair game as well. The odor of dead bees and the scent of honey being robbed attract other predators. Before long, wasps and yellow jackets have arrived on the scene to collect both meat and honey. This means more fighting and more alarm pheromone. Honey bees and wasps are not the only creatures preparing for winter. Colonies in the fall may be attacked by raccoons, opossums, or skunks. Regular visits by any creature—including a beekeeper—may make honey bees more aggressive. Rainy weather, especially with heat and high humidity, makes bees cranky as well.During the “dog days" of summer” no amount of fanning helps evaporate nectar or cool the hive.During spring make regular visits to the hive - at least once a week, especially from mid-April in the northern hemisphere, mid-October for those in the southern hemisphere, during the time when the bees are making honey. Weekly inspections should continue until fall/autumn when you start to cover up the hive again for winter.In late spring it is important that you make sure that the queen bee has not laid eggs in the honey store. One can do this by adding the removable supers and fix in place the queen excluder. In order to prevent the bees from swarming, look for any queen cells which are longer than the rest and pointed. These need to be destroyed and are often built in areas within the hive that are difficult to find. When you do find them, squash them with a hive tool. However, if you need to replace your existing queen bee with a younger one, then leave them alone.As soon as the outer hive frames of the brood box are beginning to fill up with either brood or honey, you should fix the super. This allows the bees to store honey in the super, while the queen continues to lay eggs in the brood box. It is much easier when you want to remove the super and not worry about injuring the queen in any way.
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