Annual Beekeeping Calender, what to do and when!!
Ok, so we are nearly at the end of the year and I have been meaning to translate a copy of the original calender made by Charles Basset, my beekeeping teacher! I have sent it to a few friends but never translated it to English, so here it is!
It is a good guide on how to manage your bees, here in northern Brittany and I cannot stress enough, thats it not a gospel, as we all like to do things differently! Having said that, I have used this all my beekeeping life and cant see anything on it that I would change. The dates are approimate but on yearly averges, they are correct. The original writer, Charles basset has many years of beekeeping in this region and theres not much he dosent know about bees!!
If your new to beekeeping you won`t go wrong by following this exactly.
Fix and repair damaged Hives. Repaint and treat woodwork.
Have a plan for how you want to proceed in to the new year.
Consider making extra Nuc boxes and Hives, ordering now will buy you time in an early spring.
Put together frames
Clean and sterilise old hives with a blow torch, by digging out old propolis (saving this in a jar for new nuc treatment if required) and heating up the surface of the internal parts of the hive.
Look for places to put out swarm traps in Mid April. This may take 2 or 3 visits to convince the property owner!!
If the weather permits, you may see bees on cleansing flights and also some pollen coming in from the hazel trees at the end of the month.
Feed with candy, not sugar syrop, if the hives are light. "Shuck" or lift hives very gently to acertain weight if needed but do not disturb!
Finish preparation the same as January. Your equipment should nearly be ready. If time permits, make up another Nuc. You can never have too many!!
Pollen should be returning with forraging bees and the queens will start to increase their laying frequency if the weather is not too cold.
As the weather starts to warm up, check your stored Hives, Nucs and supers for signs of hatching wax moth larvae. An infestation now could be a disaster. By the time you need your honey supers in April, you may just find a loads of larvae! Treat with "Bascillus thurigiensis" if necessary.
Feed with a little candy if all previous has been removed!
The season starts!!
At the end of the first week, if the weather pemits, (around or above 12 degrees with no wind) carry out the first inspection of your hives with your cleaned hive tool etc. Dont use dirty tools from last year.
Remove a frame from each end of the hive, ie no 1 and 10. These can be used in your traps or just stored until you have a swarm. The bees will draw up these replaced new frames as the colony size increases over the next few months. Its a good opportunity to get hold of some used frames which otherwise are difficult to procure! Always take the opportunity to pool your resourses and collect useful material like this!!
Be cautious about bothering the brood nest if its cold. As soon as you see brood or eggs return the frames to normal position quickly. Remember you wont see a lot of brood or eggs, but there should be some!
Consider your Varroa treatent. You can use cardboard impregnated strips with Amitraze or other designated chemicals, or Vaporise oxyalic acid instead, if you didnt treat in the previous autumn or you think you are badly re infested.
Give a light feed of sugar syrop ( one part sugar, to one part water) over the next 3 weeks(500ml per week). This will help stimulate the queen in to increasing her egg laying.
If you have seen eggs on one inspection, dont bother the hive for the sake of it!! If you damage the queen, remember that the chances of the colony making the hive queen right before the end of April are extremely slim!!
Around the 15th April, place a honey super on each of your hives to collect spring honey, or in the following two or three weeks be prepared to carry out artificial swarms (or risk losing your own swarms if your not around)
Decide if you want spring or summer honey, as late swarming colonies wont produce much summer honey so either artificial swarm in April and have potential for more summer honey or take spring honey and prepare for swarms or artificially swarm your hives after the spring honey harvest.
Dont open the nucs from the artificial swarms for at lease one month, to give the queen time to start laying. She may have difficulty in mating if the weather is poor in April, so be patient!
Feed your nucs for the first week and then from day 16. This will give the queens the best chances sucessfull development before and after mating.
Put out all your swarm traps around the 15th of the month. If it has been cold, deley this for another week or so. Remember, you feed your bees, wild colonies do everything for themselves, so will be later in swarming.
Harvest your spring honey crop no later than the 15th May!! Dont delay or you risk the honey crystalising in the super! If you can guarantee no oil seed rape around you, then this can be delelyed a little.
Carry out artificial swarms to your colonies after the harvest, but as it was said in April you wont get much summer honey from your late swarm bees due to reduced worker numbers.
Place you honey supers on your hives for the main honey crop as soon as you are sure all the oil seed rape has finished flowering. Even a small nectar flow from rape seed flowers can result in some crystalisation within the super. Remember, you wont be harvesting this honey until the end of August!
The main nectar flow usually starts around the 25th of June. Add another honey super to your hives when the first one is nearly full. You need to checking your hives at least once a week for the next month!
With the main nectar flow comes the greatest risk of swarming, (for the next 4 weeks.)
Its the end of the swarming season and also the end of the main nectar flow!
Its pointless adding additional supers to your hives after the second week of July. The bees wont be finding much to bring back to the colony, following the catkins on the chestnut trees turning brown and starting to fall.
If it is dry, then this is usually the start of the dearth and there will be little food around now until the ivy starts to flower around the end of September.
Carry out "artificial swarms" on all your colonies if you need more bees for next year. As soon as the catkins begin to drop from the chestnut trees utilise the high numbers of workers in the hive and create new colonies for free. Its said that the best queens are ones made in the summer months. there well fed and most importantly well mated with high numbers of drones in the vicinity.
Move the honey supers with the mother hives when artificially swarming your colonies. The honey still needs a few more weeks curing and the remaining bees and hatching brood will take care of this. Initially, put up entrance reducers on all swarmed mother hives for the first two weeks, until the numbers in the hive increase again. This helps the hive guard the reamining stores with fewer bees and creates a less stressfull hive!
All artificial swarms created in July onwards, will remain in these nucs until spring the following year. Theres just not enough food around to fill an entire 10 framed hive!
Feed all articicial swarms created in this month generously! Theres little or no food around.
Collect up all your swarm traps. You might have a late surprise! Treat all the traps against wax moth before storage. You may well need some of the nucs for artificial swarming if you have used up all your nucs you had stored away!
Dont open any Nucs containing artificial swarms until one month has passed. Feed all nucs weekly and be aware that "robbing" will have started in earnest and weak colonies will die out over the next few weeks if they are pillaged sufficiently!
Dont spill any sugar syrop on or near hives, as this will very quickly attract robber bees in "swarm like quantities"
Your bees will also defend the hive more so always wear you protective clothing if around your hives. They are also getting attacked by wasps and hornets, attracted by the smell or honey which in turn, will induce your bees to be more protective of their colony!
The honey harvest can start on or around the 15th August. Generally in the super frames, one should see three quarters of each frame capped over. As a guide, this should ensure the moisture content is low enough the stop post harvest fermentation.
Give the honey supers back to the bees for a couple of days only, otherwise the wasps will damage the cells on the frames. Put your frames away immediately after this. Wax moth can easily become established even later in the year. Store them sealed, also away from mice!
Its now the time to feed your bees and treat against Varroa mite.
Give all your hives 5 litres of strong sugar syrop. If after one week, the sugar has not been taken up, the hive is lost. If this is the case inspect the hive and give the syrop to other colonies. Its likely that if the syrop has not been drunk, then the hive will have already been robbed quite heavily.
If you are treating your mites with chemicals soaked or impregnated cardboard, treat imediately, while temperatures within the hive are still high. This will help the effectiveness of the tranfer of the treatment around the hive, as the volitile carrier vaporises.
Wait until end of October /November if vaporising oxyalic acid or drizzing thymol solution, when the temperatures are much lower and brood area will be much reduced.
On insepection, re centre the brood nest if necessary. The season is over now and we must be thinking of how to help the bees prepare for the winter.
The ivy should be in full flower. You will see large amounts of pollen coming back in to the hive.
Dont give any more sugar in the form of syrop. If the weather turns damp and cool, the bees wont be able to dry and store it!
Check hives for size of colonies, you may need to downsize colonies (back in to a nuc) if they are on less than 5 frames of brood, eggs and stores. This will also help the colony manage the heating in the hive over the winter months and also permit a quicker build up the following spring.
If you find a queenless hive, its pointless trying to requeen it now. Simply combine it with another queenright colony before it dies over the winter, or put up mose guards and allow it to be robbed out while bees are still forraging and keep the frames for next year. If the frames from dead hives are full of honey, keep them for artificial swarming the following year or for a weak colony or swarm in the spring. They will store well in a screened ventilated nuc and be a valuable asset to you!
Feed all bees with Candy or bakers Fondant if the hive is light. Definately no sugar syrop!
Ensure that all your hives have mouse guards fitted!
Treat with vaporised oxyalic acid if the temperature is above 4 degrees. Observe the mite drop.
Treat with thymol if you prefer.
Treat with thymol if you prefer.
While you have time, clean out all old hives that contained colonies this year.
Think about your beekeeping for next year. Order your new Colonies, frames and hives.
Check your honey supers for wax moth.
Enjoy your honey!! It never lasts long.
The end of the year! Leave your bees well alone. Theres nothing you can do to any colonies until next March!
Consider your options for next year, reflect on you successes and failures on the current year. Plan your next years beekeeping. Use you winter times very wisely. It all starts again in 3 months!
Start making more material!! especially Nucs and Hives
Check the uptake of candy , if at all! very little may be taken from the feeding tray until well in to January. This is normal!
You may observe some pollen coming into the hive from Mahonia shrubs, but thats about all thats in flower this time of the year.
Consider being a mentor for someone next year!! If they have you to help, then they may well take up the hobby. Beekeeping buddies get you thinking about your bees more!!
In Brittany, France, dont forget to declare you number of hives and their location. to the vetiniary service. It must be done during December.
Richard Noel, December 2013.