Spring is one of the busiest times of year to start beekeeping or check on your current beehives. This is when you start new colonies and establish what colonies made it through the winter season.
Spring is finally here! We have had a long cold winter this year, and now that spring weather is here and the days are longer, it’s time to get out there and see how many of my bees made it through the winter.
Here are some tips to help you get started this spring.
1 Determine how many bees made it through the winter
Open up each hive, do you see the cluster? The bees should be clustered together fairly high up in your hive. Gently tap the side of the hive and listen for a buzz.
2 Where’s your queen?
Look down between the frames in each hive. Do you see a brood? Tip: Honey is capped off with white cappings and tan colored cappings are the brood. If you see honey in your frames, that is great. Now you need to start feeding your bees so they don’t die off.
3 How much will the hive grow this year?
Don’t wait for your hive to grow beyond capacity. Before your hives are busting at the seems, create more room for the bees by adding super honey or a queen excluder. Make sure you stop feeding the bees at this time. This is also a great time to check for swarming.
4 Check for mites
Use a screened bottom board or the powdered sugar method to determine the Varroa mite population in your hives. What to do if you have them?
- Varroa mites prefer the drone bees. Sugar dusting is an effective way of reducing the mite population if they are present in your hives. The mites can hold on well with the powdered sugar. The bees will take to cleaning themselves which will also dislodge mites from themselves and the hive. This will reduce the population of mites significantly, but may not get rid of them completely.
- Keep the mites out of the hive by setting traps. Drawer traps will fit under your brood supers, and you should have a board that allows easy access to the sticky pad. Closed bottom board traps are raised, bee-safe screens. You put the sticky pad under the screen to catch the mites and not your bees.
How to apply the powdered sugar method:
The following method will give you an idea of the varroa mite population in your hive with 95 percent accuracy. To start, collect three hundred bees from the area around the brood frames. Pro tip: a half-cup of settled bees is going to be right around the three hundred needed.
- Transfer the bees into a canning jar, cover with a #8 screen in place of the lid, and screw it down tight.
- Add one tablespoon of powdered sugar, shake it around to coat everybody, and let it rest for at least a minute.
- Sift the content into a white, sealable container. Be sure to shake all of the sugar and mites out of the jar. Don’t get too violent, or you could damage the bees.
- Return the bees to their hive. Don’t worry, the bees will eat the sugar off of each other and be just fine.
- Count your mites (you can also add water to dissolve the sugar to make them easier to see), divide by three to get an average for one hundred bees. Multiply that number by two because studies have shown that for every mite on a bee, there is at least one inside a brood cell.