Honeybees follow a schedule based on temperatures and seasons. You can follow their lead and take care of them by following the beekeeping calendar. Find out when your bees will need bee feed, when the queen will start laying eggs, and what will occur as they prepare for winter. This calendar will vary slightly if you live in a severely cold or hot climate or at an elevation much higher or lower than 4,000 feet.
Beekeeping Calendar by Month
During the winter, your bees will tend to remain in a tight ball known as a winter cluster. Your bees will be moving their wings constantly to try to stay warm and keep the brood warm as well.
You should monitor your honeybee’s feeder. Make sure that they always have bee feed in an in-hive feeder. This is especially important if this is their first winter because they will have less honey stored up than a more developed hive.
When the end of the month draws near, the queen will be stimulated to start laying eggs. The colony will need to raise the temperature for the new bee babies so they will be consuming more food around this time.
Since they will still not be able to go out to find more nectar, it is important that you keep track of their in-hive feeder. Check the hive only if the temperature outside is above 55ºF.
The temperature should be warming up enough for early pollen to be brought in. Bees will begin feeding protein to older larvae and young bees. Make sure to keep watching the in-hive feeder, as your bees might not be getting enough food from plants just yet.
Toward the end of the month, you’ll want to start your first inspection of the year. Make sure the temperature outside is at least 55ºF. You’ll want to check for damaged frames, signs of water in the hive, check the brood pattern to make sure the queen is laying properly, and check for pests.
For more information on pests, make sure you read our next bee blog covering the most common bee pests that you might encounter.
Get ready for some busy bees. Spring is a very busy time for bees, as the temperatures are rising and the queen should be increasing her egg production. The queen will lay about 1,000 eggs per day, and the adult populations rise to approximately 30,000 to 40,000. Depending on the region, you may need to give your growing colony more room by adding an extra brood box.
You should be inspecting your colony about every 10 days now. The in-hive feeder shouldn’t be necessary anymore. Don’t forget to remove the feeder once the bees stop needing it. If you don’t, your bees will be less likely to leave the hive to look for more food.
Nectar is finally starting to flow from fruit trees. The queen bee is going to get an extra boost in her egg-laying. Around the middle of the month, you should see the brood chamber full of brood and honey stores.
At this time of year, you might see a portion of the colony split off if a new queen is grown. This process is known as supersedure. The old queen will leave and start a new hive elsewhere but don’t worry, a large portion will stay to make honey for you and your family!
If your colony has experienced a supersedure, your bees will have a lot of additional work to do. Summertime is perfect for gathering pollen and nectar so you can expect to see increased production.
During the summer, you might have to add more honey supers to the top of your hive (if you’re using a Langstroth hive). You’ll know when you need to add another super when the other boxes are about 75% capped.
July is the peak of summertime, and honeybees LOVE the summer! Your colony should have settled with a mated laying queen, and most of the worker bees will be out gathering nectar.
Your job is to give the colony plenty of room by adding empty supers to hold of their honey.
By now, the temperature will be dropping slightly and your colony will begin preparing to shut down. Your bees will go into protective mode and guard their stores of honey.
This can be a great time to harvest your share of honey. Just wait for a warm evening when your bees are calm because they will be very vigilant.
Make sure to also check for Varroa Mites and diseases. The drop in temperature can make your hive more vulnerable to pests. It is your job to make sure your honeybees are safe.
As the temperature drops, even more, your colony’s population will follow. Drones will be evicted from the hive and the queen will slow her egg production, which will drop the population even further.
When inspecting during this time, pay attention to the health of your bees and treat them as necessary for disease and parasites. Also, make sure your bees have at least two boxes of capped honey and brood. They will need this to survive the winter.
If your hive doesn’t have a sufficient amount of honey and brood, you will need to substitute with bee feed with in-hive feeders.
When the weather is nice and you have warm fall days, you may still see some worker bees bringing in pollen and nectar. However, you should install an entrance reducer at this time to keep out other bees and invading insects.
Entrance reducers will also help protect your colony from the frigid autumn winds. Plus, before you take it down in the spring, they will protect against stronger colonies trying to steal your honey.
Your colony will get through the winter with the queen and about 10,000 workers. Make sure that your colony has enough feed and is protected against the cold.
Some beekeepers wrap up their hive to keep them warm (see picture). Your hive needs ventilation to avoid disease and fungus to spread, so be careful when wrapping up a hive. Also, if you wrap up the hive, you could be trapping your bees inside. Just be cautious and keep an eye on your bees to make sure they’re not getting sick.
Conduct external inspections for damage from wind, woodpeckers, and other predators. This is also a good time to repair any beekeeping equipment that will be used next year.
Your bees will begin to gather into a winter cluster around their queen. They consume the honey that they have collected all year to keep their wings constantly vibrating. This keeps the temperature just warm enough for survival.
You should watch your in-hive feeder to ensure they have a sufficient food supply to get them through the winter. However, to ensure you don’t expose your bees to excessive cold, it’s important that you open up your hive only if outside temperatures are above 55ºF.
Learn More About Your Bees
Throughout the year, you should continue learning more and more about your bees. Check to see if there is a beekeeping club or organization in your area. Experienced beekeepers can give you tips on how to improve, and you can share your beekeeping success along the way!
You can learn more about beekeeping from Rural King by checking out our bee blog category or visiting our YouTube channel.
And remember, if you are in need of beekeeping gear, tools, or honey extraction equipment, make sure to stop by your local Rural King or visit Ruralking.com to find the best beekeeping equipment from Harvest Lane Honey.